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March 4, 2011 ( – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released a study this week showing that more teens and young adults are choosing not to have sex and that numbers choosing abstinence have increased since 2002.

Studies reporting sexual behaviors in young people gauge levels of sexual activity, but most often they do not differentiate between types of sex, resulting in mixed data.  However, the CDC’s assessment specifically tested for different types of sexual activity. 

The CDC release, recognized by experts as the largest and most reliable on sexual behavior, indicates that more teens and young adults are refraining from all types of sex, including oral and anal.

The report was based on interviews with 13,500 men and women ages 15 to 44, conducted between 2006 and 2008.  According to data, almost one-third of all 15- to 24- year olds reported never having any kind of sexual contact with another person.

In females, 29 percent had no sexual contact, up from 22 percent reported in 2002.  In males it was 27 percent, also up from 22 percent.

“I think a lot of people misconstrue this as meaning they’ve never had vaginal sex. But this is no sexual contact of any kind. They didn’t have oral sex or anal sex. They didn’t have anything,” said Anjani Chandra, a health scientist at the NCHS and lead author of the study.

It proves, she told MSNBC, that youth are not simply abstaining from intercourse while still engaging in other sexual activity.

The study also stated that in teens age 15 to 19, 7 percent of females and 9 percent of males reported having oral sex, but no intercourse.

Experts have argued over why sexual activity in young people is decreasing.  Among experts, opinions center around either increased abstinence education and emphasis or more awareness of sexually transmitted diseases.  Some also maintain that the age group simply appears less likely to be involved with drugs and sex than previous generations.

A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine on the effectiveness of abstinence education, however, indicates that students who are taught abstinence-only education are in fact less likely to engage in sexual activity.  The study is one of the first to admit abstinence-only education really works.

The study looked at Grade 6 and 7 students in inner-city Philadelphia over a two year period.  It found that students who took part in the abstinence-only course were less likely to have engaged in sex during the succeeding two years than students who were taught a safe-sex program or combined program. 

Geoffrey Fong, a health psychology professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, who co-authored the study, said that their aim was to take religious aspects out of the study.  “We took the religion out of it. [The program] wasn’t saying ‘you should do this.’ It was saying, ‘if you don’t want to, here’s how to avoid it.’ ”

Students participating in the program were taught how to deal with pressures from peers to have sex.

“Young people want to be empowered to make decisions in the context of their lives,” said Dr. Fong. “If they don’t want to have sex, they should have the kinds of social skills to talk their partner about not having sex.”