Sexuality Education

New Youth Risk Behavior Survey highlights severe sexual health disparities among minority youth

For Immediate Release
June 15, 2018

Contact: Zach Eisenstein
Phone: (202) 265-2405 ext 333

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). This year’s report revealed a mix of positive and negative trends among youth sexual behaviors including, but not limited to: an increase in birth control use; a decrease in condom use; and severe health disparities among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth and youth of color.

While the 2017 YRBS is an invaluable tool in determining the health and well-being of students across the nation and in highlighting disparities, it is also important to recognize that the behaviors are often a reflection of inequities young people face in accessing information and care related to their sexual health.

According to the 2017 YRBS data, the majority of high school students report having had sex by the time they become high school seniors. 56% of females and 59% of males report having had sexual intercourse. Over the last ten years, the number of students reporting that they have ever had sexual intercourse has decreased by 8.3%. Similarly, the number of students who say that they are currently sexually active has also decreased (by 6.3%).

While the report shows a 2.6% increase since 2015 in the reported use of birth control, discouragingly, it also shows a 3.1% decrease in the number of sexually active young people reporting condom use, contributing to an overall decrease of 7.7% over the past decade.

Encouragingly, fewer students who are dating reported experiencing physical dating violence (8% in 2017 compared to 9.6% in 2015) as well as sexual dating violence (6.9% in 2017 compared to 10.6% in 2015). However, students also reported a slight increase in being forced to have sex, with a much higher prevalence among females (11.3%) than males (3.5%).

Perhaps the most concerning data reported in the 2017 YRBS reflects significant disparities among LGB and racial minority youth. Beyond simply reporting these disparities, the data reinforces the fact that there is a clear lack of quality information and resources provided equitably to youth across all demographics.

For example, students identifying as black or Hispanic reported lower rates of effective hormonal birth control use and higher rates of experiencing physical dating violence compared to all students.

Furthermore, LGB youth reported significantly higher rates of being forced to have sex and experiencing physical and sexual dating violence compared to all students.

This data should be used in order to remedy disparities—such as efforts to provide more LGBTQ-inclusive and culturally appropriate sex education–and not in a manner that is shaming or stigmatizing LGBTQ youth or youth of color for their health behaviors.

Further analysis and utilization of this data is crucial to advancing the sexual health and well-being of young people across the nation.

Learn more about these and other sexual behavior results.


The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) has served as the national voice for sex education, sexual health, and sexual rights for over 50 years. SIECUS asserts that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one worthy of dignity and respect. We advocate for the rights of all people to accurate information, comprehensive sexuality education, and the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health services. SIECUS works to create a world that ensures social justice inclusive of sexual and reproductive rights.