The nifty new CDC study on teen sex

I am a bit of a sex data nerd. OkTrends makes me tingly. Sometimes they tweet cool articles like the three sexy skills of data geeks. Extra tingles for that one. It’s difficult to find decent sex studies that are unbiased, and I often feel tricked by news headlines about sensational stuff resulting from a sex study, only to track the study down and find it’s not credible, or that the point I thought was interesting was a factoid mangled by a media game of telephone. Know what I mean?

So when I find good ones, I gotta share them with you. And by good I mean reliable and transparent, not necessarily in line with my personal views. Facts are hot. Anyway, last night I spent some time reading the newly published CDC study, Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2008. I was led to it by news headlines about more teens using the rhythm method, but I thought that this was an odd extract. Far more interesting, to me, was the cost of treating teens’ STDs — many of which could have been prevented with condom use. The study itself is neat. The age range studied was 15 to 19 as part of a larger survey (to be released next year) that encompassed over 13 thousand teens. Summary information includes:

* Sexually active adolescents aged 15 to 19 are at higher risk for acquiring some STDs than are adults. Chesson et al (2004) estimate that the direct medical cost of these diseases was at least $6.5 billion in 2000 alone.
* The U.S. birth rate for females 15-19 years of age was 42.5 births per 1,000 females in 2007. That rate was higher than a number of other developed countries in the world.
* The condom is the most commonly used method among sexually experienced teen females: 95% had used the condom at least once. The second most common method was withdrawal, with 58%. (This is also called “pull out and pray” and is NOT the rhythm method.)
* Female teens’ use of the less effective, non-hormonal, non-device method of periodic abstinence (calendar rhythm method) increased since 2002, from 11% to 17%.

Image drawn by a friend’s kid at a BBQ last Saturday afternoon. We were all quite amused.

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