Young Adults Consider STDs
Special Report - May 14, 2010
The majority of young adults in the United States who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) do not believe they are at risk, and many continue to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, according to a new Child Trends report released this month. The report, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Young Adults: Prevalence, Perceived Risk, and Risk-Taking Behaviors,” is based on an analysis of data from the latest findings from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health. According to the report, over 15 percent of young adults (ages 18 to 24) have either tested positive for or been diagnosed with an STD, either at the time of the survey or within the past year. The most common STD among those who received a positive test result was chlamydia, followed by trichomoniasis. Women were twice as likely as men to have had an STD (20 percent of young women in the survey, versus 10 percent of young men). Black young adults were also more likely than young adults from other ethnic or racial backgrounds to have had an STD.
The study also found that cohabiting young adults or those in dating relationships are more likely than single or married young adults to have had an STD. For example, 18 percent of cohabiting young adults and 16 percent of young adults in dating relationships had tested positive for or been diagnosed with an STD, compared to 13 percent of young adults who were not in a relationship, and only 11 percent of married young adults in the survey.
Another key finding from the Child Trends report is that nearly three-fourths of young adults who tested positive for an STD did not consider themselves to be at risk. In fact, only 28 percent said they believed they had any chance of contracting an STD, despite having been diagnosed with one. Equally as disturbing, the study found that many sexually active young adults, including those who have tested positive for an STD, continue to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, such as having three or more sexual partners, having a sexual partner who has ever had an STD, and/or inconsistent condom use. For example, the study found that:
- Half of all sexually active young adults in the survey reported engaging in at least one sexual risk behavior, such as having three or more sexual partners in the past year.
- 14 percent of all sexually active young adults said they had engaged in two or more sexual risk behaviors in the past year (and were more likely to have an STD).
- Among unmarried sexually active young adults, only 25 percent reported using condoms every time they had sexual intercourse (24 percent said they never used a condom in the past year during sex).
“The prevalence of sexually transmitted inflections is high among young adults in the United States. In fact, evidence suggests that the incidence of many STDs (such as syphilis, genital herpes, and HPV) is continuing to increase, while the incidence of many others (such as gonorrhea and chlamydia) remains at levels that are too high,” the Child Trend report concludes. “While testing for STDs has expanded and improved, it is clear that more needs to be done to protect young adults and reduce the costs associated with STDs in the United States.”
“The high prevalence of STDs and risky sexual behaviors among young adults reinforces the importance of abstinence-until-marriage education,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “The only way for young people to completely avoid the risk of STDs, not to mention the myriad of negative consequences associated with non-marital sexual activity, is to postpone sex until marriage and to be faithful to their marriage partner for life.”
Brooks added, “Despite the General Assembly’s enactment of the Healthy Youth Act last year, North Carolina law still requires the teaching of abstinence until marriage in our public schools, and it continues to be the best message we can give our kids to help them protect themselves from lifelong mental, emotional and physical harm.”
To learn more about the Healthy Youth Act and what is required for sex education under North Carolina law, download the North Carolina Family Policy Council’s new issue brief, here.
Copyright © 2010. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.