- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

Teen sexual activity has stabilized, although more teenage girls are saying they have had intercourse, a federal report says.

In 2003, 46.7 percent of teens said they had had sexual intercourse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its new Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey. This is statistically the same as 2001, when 45.6 percent of teens said they had had sexual intercourse, the CDC said.

The CDC also noted several improvements in teen behavior in the past 12 years. For instance, since 1991, the percentage of high school students who have been in a physical fight dropped from 43 percent to 33 percent.

The portion of students who smoked fell from 28 percent in 1991 to 22 percent in 2003; and the portion of students who have ever drunk alcoholic beverages fell from 82 percent in 1991 to 75 percent in 2003.

The number of teens who said they rode with a driver who had been drinking fell from 40 percent in 1991 to 30.2 percent in 2003. “That’s really good news, and it reminds you that you can have positive change,” said Kristin Moore, president of Child Trends, a nonprofit research group in the District.

However, a higher number of teenage girls in all ethnic groups and most grades in high school reported having had sexual intercourse in 2003. In contrast, a smaller percentage of boys, except for black youths, reported having had sexual intercourse.

Teen condom use rose by five percentage points, with 63 percent of teens saying they used a condom the last time they had sex, said a spokeswoman for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

“It reminds you that these are behaviors. We can’t just inoculate kids and they will avoid alcohol, sex and drugs. We really have to focus on this continuously,” Mrs. Moore said.

The survey is taken in high schools every two years and collects data on risky behaviors, including sexual activity; tobacco, alcohol and drug use; injuries and violence; and weight issues. More than 15,000 teens answered the 2003 survey, which was included in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“Too many young people still engage in activities that place them at risk for serious injury, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection, and chronic disease, such as heart disease and cancer,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC. Youths need information and skills to help them make the right choices, she added.

The CDC study also showed that about a third of students considered themselves overweight, and the number of students who worried about becoming overweight grew slightly to about 15 percent.

Compared with the last survey in 2001, the new survey found:

• The number of girls who have “ever” had sexual intercourse rose by 7.5 percentage points among blacks and about two percentage points among whites and Hispanics. The 2003 sexual activity rates were 60.9 percent for black girls, 46.4 percent for Hispanics and 43.0 percent for whites.

• Among boys, the sexual activity rates were 73.8 percent for blacks, 56.8 percent for Hispanics and 40.5 percent for whites. These rates were down 4.6 percentage points for white boys and 3.8 percentage points for Hispanic boys, but up by five percentage points for black boys.

• More than half of 11th- and 12th-graders said they had had sexual intercourse at least once.

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