Teenage Sexuality Statistics [2022]: How Many Teens Are Sexually Active?

We’ve gathered all interesting teenage sexuality statistics, and let’s examine how youth explore their sexuality, how active they are, and more. Read on:

teenage sexuality statistics

Teenagers start to examine their sexuality and experiment sexually quite early – with many having had sex by the time they’re 19. Unfortunately, teens also have some of the highest rates of STI transmission and are significantly less likely to use contraception.

Here are all the stats we could find about teenage sexuality, teen sex statistics, and more:

Top Teenage Sexuality Statistics You Should Know:

  • Adolescence is a delicate phase between childhood and adulthood in which young people develop their personalities and construct their identities.
  • 11% of girls have had a same-sex partner in their lifetime.
  • 5% of boys have had a same-sex partner in their lifetime.
  • 69% of LGBTQ middle and high school students reported verbal harassment In 2019.
  • 52% of students had heard homophobic remarks from teachers or other school staff.
  • 66% of teens & young people aged 15-24 have had sexual intercourse (defined as vaginal or anal sex) at least one time.
  • 9% of those who had sex had done so before age 15.
  • Interest in romantic and sexual contact typically begins around the ages of 11-14.
  • 40% of unmarried teens aged 15-19 reported having sex in 2017.
  • Nearly 80% of women and 90% of men aged 15-24 said they used contraception for the first time.
  • Sexually active teens who do not use contraceptives have a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year.
  • 15-24-year-olds represent only 25% of the sexually active population but account for nearly half (9.1 million) of the 18.9 million new cases of STIs each year.
  • 77.4% of all women began menstruation by age 13, and 96.4% of all women began menstruation by age 15.

Adolescents: “Sexual Beings” With Rights

Teens & adolescents begin examining their sexuality early and may need to be considered sexually active sooner than many think.

  • Adolescence is a delicate phase between childhood and adulthood in which young people develop their personalities and construct their identities. (Humanium, n.d.)1
    • Young people start to examine their sexual orientation and who they are as people during adolescence.
    • The topic of adolescent sexuality is widely debated as to the recognition of these young people as sexual beings.
  • An ‘adolescent’ is defined as any person between the ages of 10 and 19 and a ‘young person’ between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the WHO (World Health Organization). (Humanium, n.d.)1

Youth Sexual Health Statistics

These statistics highlight how youth explore their sexuality and gender identity and highlight trends among today’s young people:

  • 11% of girls have had a same-sex partner in their lifetime. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
    • 10% report having had a same-sex partner within the last year.
  • 5% of boys have had a same-sex partner in their lifetime. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
    • 4% report having had a same-sex partner within the last year.
  • 82% of women described themselves as attracted only to the opposite sex. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
    • 9% mostly to the opposite sex.
    • 5% equally to both.
    • 1% mostly to the same sex.
    • 1% only to the same sex.
    • And 1% were unsure.
  • 90% of women identified with the term “heterosexual or straight.” (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
    • 2% used “homosexual, gay, or lesbian.”
    • 6% used “bisexual.”
  • 92% of men described themselves as attracted only to the opposite sex. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
    • 6% mostly to the opposite sex.
    • 1% mostly to the same sex.
    • 1% only to the same sex.
    • And less than 1% said they were unsure.
  • 97% of men identified with the term “heterosexual or straight.” (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
    • 2% “homosexual or gay.”
    • and 1% “bisexual.”
  • A large, anonymous survey of U.S. high school students (Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2:
    • 84% of students identify with the term “heterosexual (straight).”
    • 2.5% identified as “gay or lesbian.”
    • 9% identified as “bisexual.”
    • 4.5% said they were not sure of their sexual identity.
  • Most lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender students experience harassment at school. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
    • 69% of LGBTQ middle and high school students reported verbal harassment In 2019.
      • 26% experienced physical harassment.
      • 11% experienced physical assault.
    • 52% of students had heard homophobic remarks from teachers or other school staff.
    • Boys perceived as gay or feminine are far more likely to face intense stigma.
    • The presence of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs within a school setting has been demonstrated to foster a safer environment.
      • 15% of LGBTQ students reported that schools would not allow them to form or promote a club of this kind.
  • 66% of teens & young people aged 15-24 have had sexual intercourse (defined as vaginal or anal sex) at least one time. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • Rates of sex in each age group (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3:
    • 30% of teens aged 15-17 reported having sex at least once.
    • 68% of teens aged 18-19  reported having sex at least once.
    • 86% of youth aged 20-24  reported having sex at least once.
  • 9% of those who had sex had done so before age 15.
    • 25.7% of those who had intercourse had done so at 15 or 16. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • 32.5% of sexually active youth reported having sex with more than one partner.
    • 39.0% of men had multiple partners, compared to just 25.4% of young women. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • In a 2013 study of 30,000 teens:
    • Rates of sex increase with age:
      • 3% of 13-year-olds reported having sex
      • 16% of 15-year-olds.
      • And 39% of 17-year-olds had ever had intercourse.
    • Rates of giving and receiving oral sex also increased with age:
    • Receiving oral sex:
      • 3% of 13-year-olds
      • 18% of 15-year-olds
      • 38% of 17-year-olds had ever received oral sex. 
    • Giving oral sex:
      • 2% of 13- year-olds
      • 16% of 15-year-olds
      • 35% of 15-year-olds had ever given oral sex.
    • Girls were more likely to give oral sex, and boys were more likely to receive it.
    • Young people with more connections to school and family were less likely to have oral sex or intercourse. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3

Teens’ Romantic Relationships and Sexual Experiences

Young people begin having romantic relationships early – with almost 30% having one by the age of 13. But that doesn’t mean they’re all having sex. Here’s what studies have found:

  • About one in three (30%) of 13-year-olds had a romantic relationship (not necessarily sexual).
    • This number naturally increases with age. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
  • By age 17, 70% report having had a romantic relationship within the last 18 months. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
  • Most teens report a sense of equal power, decision-making, and emotional support within their relationships. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
  • Interest in romantic and sexual contact typically begins around the age of 11-14. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2
  • Sexual activity beyond kissing and other “light” behaviors may be associated with depression and other problems in early adolescence. (ACT for Youth, n.d.)2

At What Age Do Teens Start Acting Sexually?

While teens begin thinking about sex early, most don’t have sex until later, according to these studies:

  • 40% of unmarried teens aged 15-19 reported having sex in 2017. (UPI, 2020)4
  • 42% of female teenagers and 38% of male teenagers reported having had sex. (UPI, 2020)4
    • Both of these numbers were down significantly from 2002 when they were each 46%.
  • Of young women aged 15 and 24, 21% said they had had sexual intercourse by age 15. (UPI, 2020)4
    • By age 17, this increased to 53% and reached 79% by age 20.
  • Of young men aged 15 and 24, 20% said they had had sexual intercourse by age 15. (UPI, 2020)4
    • By age 17, this increased to 48% and reached 77% by age 20.
  • Nearly 80% of women and nearly 90% of men aged 15-24 said they used contraception for the first time. (UPI, 2020)4
  • 79% of women who had sex for the first time between ages 15 and 16 used contraception their first time. (UPI, 2020)4
    • 83% said they did so at age 17-19 years old.
    • Those 14 years old and younger used it just 57% of the time. 
  • 93% of men aged 15-16 used contraception their first time. (UPI, 2020)4
    • At age 17-19, 91% used it.
  • 97% of female teenagers who had ever had sex reported using condoms. (UPI, 2020)4
    • 19% reported using “emergency contraception.”
  • 20% of female teenagers who were sexually active used a long-lasting contraceptive such as an intrauterine device (IUD) or implant contraceptives. (UPI, 2020)4

Facts About Sexual Health in Teens in The US

Sexual health among teens is important, especially in areas with poor sexual education. Here’s what studies have discovered about the sexual health of teens in the US:

  • “Sexual health” is defined as a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being related to sexuality. It’s not just the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
  • 46.8% of all high school students reported ever having sex in 2013. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
  • Getting tested regularly is one of the only ways for teens to tell if they are physically fit in terms of sexual health. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
  • 70% of women and 56% of men said that their first sexual experience was with a steady partner. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
    • 16% of women and 28% of men report first having sex with someone they had just met or who was just a friend.
  • Sexually active teens who do not use contraceptives have a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
  • No state explicitly requires parental consent or notification for contraceptive services. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
    • Texas and Utah require parental consent for contraceptive services paid for with state funds.
  • 15-24-year-olds represent only 25% of the sexually active population but account for nearly half (9.1 million) of the 18.9 million new cases of STIs each year. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
  • Laws in 38 states required that a minor seeking an abortion involve her parents in the decision as of May 2014. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
  • 418 public schools in the US that make condoms available to students. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
    • According to advocates for Youth National School Condom Availability Clearinghouse.
  • In 1997, half of all new HIV infections occurred in people under 25 in the United States. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5
    • 25% of new HIV infections in the US occur in people under the age of 22.
  • By their 19th birthday, 7 out of 10 teens have engaged in sexual intercourse. (DoSomething.org, n.d.)5

Frequency of US Teens Having Sex

Teens have sex – but maybe not as often as you might think. Many don’t have sex until they’re older, and most don’t have sex until after high school. The rates of teen sex also seem to be declining in the last decade, according to these studies:

  • Fewer than 40% of American high schoolers have ever had sexual intercourse. (Institute for Family Studies, 2020)6
    • This is a decline of over 15 percentage points since the early 1990s.
  • 38.4% of high schoolers reported that they had ever had sex in 2019, down from 39.5% in 2017, 46% in 2009, and 54% in 1991. (Institute for Family Studies, 2020)6
  • Boys were slightly more likely (39.2%) than girls (37.6%) to self-report having had sex. (Institute for Family Studies, 2020)6
    • This disparity appears across most surveys and likely represents response bias.
  • 27.4% of teens were currently sexually active in 2019, a decline from 28.7% a year ago, 34.2% a decade ago, and 37.5% in 1991. (Institute for Family Studies, 2020)6
  • Black high schoolers are less likely than ever to have had sex. (Institute for Family Studies, 2020)6
    • Rates of sex dropped from 81.5% in 1991 to 42.3% today, making black teens statistically indistinguishable from white and Hispanic students.
  • The average sexually-active ninth grader has had sex with two others, compared to 2.64 for a twelfth grader. (Institute for Family Studies, 2020)6
    • In 1991, those figures were 2.88 and 3.07.
  • These large changes in sexual frequency have not corresponded with similar changes in birth control use. (Institute for Family Studies, 2020)6
    • New forms of birth control, such as IUDs, shots, rings, etc., were only involved in 6%-8% of sexual activity from 2013 onwards.
  • Today’s teens are only marginally more likely to use the “pill” than they were in 1991, accounting for roughly 1 in 5 sexual encounters. (Institute for Family Studies, 2020)6

Percentage of Teens Using Condoms and Contraception

Contraceptive use is relatively common among teens, but many still have unprotected sex:

  • Rates of condom use by age (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3:
    • 79.9% of teens aged 15-17
    • 73.7% of teens aged 18-19
    • 62.8% of youth aged 20-24
  • 72.5% of males and 62.5% of females aged 15-24 reportedly used condoms during their last intercourse. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • 72.5% of youth aged 15-24 used condoms in 2009/2010, compared to 59.6% in 2003. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • 70.8% of teens aged 15-19 used a condom the last time they had sex. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
    • 74.8% of males reported doing so, and 65.6% of females reported condom use.
  • 58% of youth ages 20-29 used a condom the last time they had sex. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
    •  62.7% of males reported doing so, and 50.6% of females reported condom use.
  • Only 17% reportedly used a condom or other type of barrier the last time they had oral sex. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
    • Younger students were more likely to use a condom or other types of barrier protection.
  • 69% of youth used a condom or other type of barrier the last time they had sex as a way to prevent STIs. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
    • Females were less likely than males to report condom use (66% versus 72%).
  • For pregnancy prevention:
    • 65% used condoms.
    • 48% used birth control pills.
    • 35% used withdrawal.
    • 6% used emergency contraception.
    • 2% used some other method prescribed by a nurse or a doctor.
    • 3% were unsure if they used a method.
    • 3% used no method.
      (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • 35% of youth used both a condom and a hormonal contraceptive to prevent STIs and pregnancy. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3

How Often Do Teenagers Consume Alcohol And Drugs?

Drugs and alcohol can also play a role in how frequently teens have sex:

  • 66.4% of teens ages 15-19 and 88.5% of youth ages 20-24 used alcohol at least once. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
    • 59.1% of teens ages 15-19 and 82.7% used alcohol within the last 12 months
  • 28.9% of teens aged 15-19 tried marijuana at least once.
    • 20.6% used it in the past year. 
  • Among young people aged 20-24 years old:
    • 53.7% tried marijuana at least once, and 29.7% used it in the last year. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • 29% of grade 9 students and 40-42% of grade 10 students had used alcohol at least once in the past 30 days. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • 23% of grade 9 and 10 students had tried marijuana at least once, and 13% had used marijuana in the past month. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • 24% of youth who had ever had intercourse (26% males; 22% females) had used drugs or alcohol before their last intercourse. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • Young people who drink alcohol or use drugs before engaging in sexual intercourse are less likely to use protection such as condoms and have an increased risk of pregnancy or developing an STI or HIV. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3

How Common Is Teenage Pregnancy?

One of the biggest concerns among teens (and their parents) is the possibility of pregnancy. But, according to these studies, teen pregnancies have been declining and are relatively uncommon:

  • The pregnancy rate declined from 32.4 to 16.6 per 1,000 women, a 48.8% decrease from 2007 to 2016.(Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • The estimated pregnancy rate for Alberta teens declined from 38.0 to 21.7 per 1,000 persons, a 42.9% reduction from 2007 to 2016. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • The teen birth rate steadily declined from 19.9 to 11.0 per 1,000 women from 2007 to 2016. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • The estimated teen pregnancy rate in Canada declined from 30.6 to 28.2 per 1,000 females aged 15-19 from 2007 to 2010. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • The induced abortion rate for teens aged 15-19 was 14.7 per 1,000 females in 2010. The abortion rate has declined since 2007. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3
  • In 2013 the live birth rate for teens 15-19 years old was 11.1 per 1,000 females. The live birth rate has been decreasing since 2008. (Alberta Health Services, 2012)3

Trends in Adolescent Sexual And Fertility Behavior

These trends indicate a general decrease in sexual activity of teens over the past several decades:

  • 77.4% of all women began menstruation by age 13, and 96.4% of all women began menstruation by age 15. (National Library of Medicine, n.d.)7
  • The average age at first menstruation for all women was 12.6 years. (National Library of Medicine, n.d.)7
    • 12.7 years for White women and 12.5 years for Black women. 
    • This difference in age at first menstruation between Black and White women is not statistically significant.
  • There was a 53% increase in the number of sexually experienced females aged 15-19 between 1971 and 1982. This increase was primarily due to increases among Whites. (National Library of Medicine, n.d.)7
  • Between 1979 and 1982, there was a slight decrease in the number of teenage women having sex. (National Library of Medicine, n.d.)7
  • In 1982, about 42% of women aged 15-19 had intercourse, compared to 46% of women aged 15-19 in 1979. (National Library of Medicine, n.d.)7
  • The decline in sexual activity for white teenagers was slight, from 42.3% to 40.3% for 15-19 year-olds, and is not statistically significant. (National Library of Medicine, n.d.)7
    • The decline for Black teenagers was much larger, from 64.8 to 52.9 percent for 15-19 year-olds.
  • More than 50% of women aged 18-19 in 1982 had experienced intercourse, compared to less than 30% of women aged 15 and 16 in 1982. (National Library of Medicine, n.d.)7
  • 47% of women aged 15 to 19 had had sexual intercourse. (National Library of Medicine, n.d.)7
    • 44.9% of White teens and 58.9 percent of Black teens.
    •  Compared to more than 85 percent of all women older than age 20.
  • Unmarried teens account for 32% of all unmarried women ever having had intercourse and 8% of all sexually active women. (National Library of Medicine, n.d.)7

Conclusion

Teens will continue to have sex and hopefully stay protected while doing so. Most currently use protection, but they still account for a significant portion of all STI cases. More sexual education in schools and at home can help prevent the spread of disease and unwanted pregnancies and keep teens safe if they choose to have sex.

For more interesting sex studies, consider checking out this article.

Footnotes

  1. Humanium, n.d. An article on adolescent/teenager sexuality.
  2. ACT for Youth, n.d. Statistics on youth sexual health from 2008 to 2009.
  3. Alberta Health Services, 2012. Statistics on youth sexuality: stats and trends for professional reference.
  4. UPI, 2020. A study conducted by the CDC discussing 40% of U.S. teens are sexually active.
  5. DoSomething.org, n.d. An article on some facts about the sexual health in teens in the US.
  6. Institute for Family Studies, 2020. An article on Fewer American High Schoolers Having Sex Than Ever Before.
  7. National Library of Medicine, n.d. A study titled Risking the Future: Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy, and Childbearing, Volume II: Working Papers and Statistical Appendices.
Dainis Graveris

Dainis Graveris

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