Similarly, there was a significant dropoff in the percentage of students who declared having had four or more partners, down from 15% in 2011 to 6% in 2021.


Yet these behaviors were not associated with an improvement in safe behavior associated with sex. Use of condoms went down (from 60% to 52%), and so did HIV testing (from 13% to 6%). The latter decline could be a consequence of lower access to testing during covid, though the trend pointed downward in 2019 as well.

More girls than boys are having sex

The survey also breaks down the responses by ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. It found that girls (31%) were slightly more likely to ever have had sex than boys (29%), reversing the trend from 2011, when boys (49%) were more likely to be sexually experienced than girls (46%). Female students in the most recent survey were also more likely to describe themselves as sexually active: 23% versus 19% of male students.


Only 11% of Asian students said they had ever had sex, compared to a range of 29% to 34% for all other ethnicities. This is the group that experienced the most drastic reduction, down from 30% in 2011. Meanwhile, LGBTQ students were more likely to have had sex (34%) compared to their heterosexual peers (29%).

The CDC categorizes sexual activity among high school students as risky behavior, so it considers the reduction a positive trend. Yet other aspects of the YRBS report painted a far more troubling picture, showing an increased prevalence of depression and suicidal thoughts among high school students, and an increase in sexual violence.

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