(WASHINGTON) — The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released data on Thursday that revealed an overall decrease in oral sex among adolescents between 2002 and 2010, reflecting a similar small decline in vaginal intercourse within the same age group.
A drop in oral sex was seen among females, but the numbers of males engaged in the behavior was the same.
Experts said two-thirds of all youth between the ages of 15 and 24 had an experience with oral sex, risky behavior that the federal government said is contributing to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
The report, “Prevalence and Timing of Oral Sex With Opposite-Sex Partners Among Females and Males Aged 15-24 Years: United States,” included data from the CDC’s National Survey of Family Growth. The data came from 6,346 interviews among young adults from 2007 to 2010.
In the youngest group, ages 15 to 19, which did not include married males, the report said that 41 percent of females and 47 percent of males had received oral sex. Forty-three percent of girls in that group had given oral sex, while 35 percent of boys had.
For both sexes between the ages of 20 to 24, the numbers go up: 81 percent of females and 80 percent of males had engaged in oral sex.
Some data suggest that many adolescents engage in oral sex because they believe it is safer and preserves their virginity, according to a CDC 2009 fact sheet.
The CDC has taken an increased interest in the data because of the rise of sexually transmitted diseases, including a spike in HIV infection rates among males 13 to 29 years old. Although the risk for HIV/AIDS through oral sex is lower than vaginal intercourse or anal sex, according to the CDC, the transmission rates for genital herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis are considerably higher. Some studies have found that an increase in oral cancers in the United States is associated with the human papillomavirus, and researchers attribute that to the popularity of oral sex.
One of the findings of the NCHS report was that of those adolescents who’d had oral sex, only 5.1 percent of females and 6.5 percent of males stopped there. The overwhelming majority of 15- to 24-year-olds went on to have vaginal intercourse. These findings underscore previous studies that found having oral sex was a strong indicator for engaging in sexual intercourse.
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