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Fewer high schoolers are engaging in sex and other risky activities, new reports show

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011 file photo, Reynolds American cigarette brand American Spirit are on display at a liquor store in Palo Alto, Calif.
FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011 file photo, Reynolds American cigarette brand American Spirit are on display at a liquor store in Palo Alto, Calif. AP

While some folks still shake their fists at crazy millennials, it appears many of them took fewer risks in high school than teens did in previous generations.

A report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a “significant” decrease in the number of U.S. high school students who have had sex. The study took place from 2005-15.

The rate of students who have had sex dropped from about 47 percent to about 41 percent during the 10-year span. For males, the drop was 48 percent to 43 percent; for females, 46 percent to 39 percent; for black students, 68 percent to 49 percent; and for Hispanic students, 51 percent to 43 percent.

In some states, the rate decreased significantly for students in grades 9-10, but not 11-12.

Tracking students grades 9-12 in 29 states, the questionnaire included one lone question: “Have you ever had sexual intercourse?” and two options: “yes” or “no.”

The CDC study lists two of its own limitations: first, that the data only reflects students rather than all people in the adolescent age group; and second, that students may under- or over-report their sexual activity.

Still, it’s good news, the CDC says in its writeup.

“The decreases in sexual intercourse by grade suggest that fewer students are having sexual intercourse during the earlier years of high school; this finding is especially encouraging,” CDC’s report states. “This finding, coupled with decreases in the prevalence of sexual intercourse among black and Hispanic students, represent positive changes among groups of students (e.g., students who have sex at younger ages and black youths) who have been indicated in previous studies to be at higher risk for negative outcomes.”

These negative outcomes can include sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy – the latter of which has also trended downward in recent years. Teen pregnancy and childbearing among U.S. teens dropped 9 percent between 2013 and 2014, and “has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years (through 2014),” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report does not speculate on the cause of the drop-off, but some experts cite more effective and direct sex education as a contributing factor.

But the CDC’s survey is still being evaluated and interpreted.

“We need to see if this is a short-term blip or this is something that is going to continue,” researcher Laura Lindberg told the Washington Post.

And it’s not just sexual activity trending downward. Various reports have shown that teens are starting to drink alcohol later in life, consuming less tobacco and that marijuana use recently hit a 20-year low.

Teens are even getting their driver’s licenses later, one recent article in journal Child Development claims.

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