Kids these days just aren’t that into each other, according to a new report released last week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report, based on nationally representative survey data of children living in 29 US states, found that the “proportion of high school students nationwide who had ever had sexual intercourse decreased significantly during 2005–2015 overall.”
In 2005, 46.8 percent of high schoolers from grades 9-12 said they had ever had sex; by 2015, that number dropped to 41.2 percent. The drop continues a steady pattern of waning teen lust—in 1995, about 53 percent of teens said they had gone all the way. The decline in sex wasn’t spaced out evenly by age or gender, though.
White students of any grade, after accounting for other factors, didn’t have significantly less sex in 2005 than they did in 2015. Black students did experience a significant drop across all grades, as did Hispanic students in three grades. Overall, the decreases in teen sex were only noticeably among students in the 9th and 10th grade. The rate of teen sex in the 11th and 12th grade stayed about the same.
Why exactly this behavioural shift is happening is still a bit of mystery, though scientists have reached for explanations ranging from the positive (less lead poisoning) to the negative (the rise of smartphones killing teen romance). The CDC authors, for their part, note that the U.S. has experienced profound shifts in technology, the use of social media by kids, and how sex ed and teen pregnancy prevention programmes have been run and funded since 2005 (for example, the decline of Bush-era abstinence programmes, which actually led to more kids having sex).
Health-wise, less teen sex tends to be a good thing. These numbers square with reported lower rates of teen pregnancy in recent years.
This report is only the latest to suggest that teens today are actually more responsible than their parents were at their age: Other studies have shown they do drugs less and commit less crime than kids did in the 1990s and 1980s.