Study: Younger demographics having safer, more frequent sex

Results shows condom use decreases with age.
Ashley Lane / Graphic Designer

Older demographics are still having sex, but, according to a new study, young people are doing it even more than their parents did. Or their grandparents. Or any other generation in history.

And they’re being safer about it, too.

At least that's what the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior says. The study, completed by researchers at Indiana University, shows that people ages 14 and older are having sex and that younger sexually active people are using protection more often than older demographics.

The goal of the study, according to researcher J. Dennis Fortenberry, was to find what Americans are doing between the sheets, and how they’re doing it.

“That kind of particular study has never been done,” he said. “Really just to describe what's normal: whether people are having sex or not and then describing their sexual relationships."

The study gathered statistics on several sexual behaviors across many age groups.

“The oldest person I believe we talked to was age 94,” Fortenberry said.

Although the information didn’t vary drastically across the range, it did show that with age, condom usage falls.

“I think they grew up in a different era,” he said. “Many of them did not grow up in the era of HIV. They may have been taught either condoms were not effective as a form of birth control, or maybe they viewed themselves as lower risk because they were either in a long-term relationship or married, but if they get a divorce or break up, they aren't aware of their safety.”

SHAPE coordinator Heather Eastman-Mueller said she believes it’s due to the relationship status of the older generation.

“Our target audience is 18 to 24, so I would hypothesize that the older people are in monogamous relationships, or are more stable in their sexual lives,” she said. “Either partnered or cohabiting or married.”

Fortenberry said the younger generation has been more exposed to sexuality in general and are more prone to practice safe sex.

"Most of the younger generation were born after 1990,” he said. "They came into adolescence and have been exposed to this at school, on television, the internet. There are ads on some television stations for condoms, for birth control, erectile dysfunction and personal lubricants. There's a level of discussion in our society that wasn't present for older generations as they grew up and became adolescence."

Eastman-Mueller said her program includes a lot of that conversation.

"That's the first step, is openly talking about it,” she said. "Everybody can always be more educated about sexual health."

A new aspect of the SHAPE program is their website, which is a new, interactive site made by students, for students. The site includes forums, condom demonstrations, pages on self-esteem, coming out and more.

Freshmen Allison Gillian said she believes students are practicing safe sex for the most part.

“I think it’s definitely necessary,” Gillian said. “If you’re practicing in sexual activities, you should definitely be practicing safe sex.”

Freshman Will Byrne said he believes that condoms are used more for birth control than for sexually transmitted diseases.

“I think STD prevention is a benefit,” he said. “I think condoms should be used for birth control. If you do wind up getting pregnant, it’s your own fault.”

Fortenberry said he thinks this generation might be safer than others.

"Maybe college students should become better teachers for their own parents,” he said.

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