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Health

Most Teens Actually Aren't Smoking, Drinking, Or Having Sex

Sex is out, vaping is in.

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A new report from the CDC is here to tell us that teens are doing OK. Probably better than you expected tbh.

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They just released the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, which surveys high schoolers in the U.S. about everything from sex and contraception to mental health and drug use.

More than 15,000 youths took this year's survey, and the results are pretty surprising.

So, here's a look at what the teens are actually up to these days, which will either make you feel very relieved or very old. Or both.

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FYI: The data comes from 37 state surveys and 19 large urban school district surveys, conducted on 9th-to-12th-graders between September 2014 and December 2015. While it's considered a nationally representative sample of high school students, it's obviously not an all-encompassing look at every teenager in the country (and it doesn't include those who were homeschooled or not enrolled in school).

Teens are actually having less sex.

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In the most recent report, just about 41%* of teens reported ever having sex, down significantly from almost 47% in 2013. And just 30% reported being currently sexually active (meaning they had had sex in the last three months), down from 34% in 2013. So basically teen movies are lying to us and everybody isn't having sex all the time in high school.

It's worth noting here that the surveys just asked students about "sexual intercourse," so who knows if teens counted activities like oral sex, anal sex, or manual stimulation when answering. This may have been particularly exclusionary for LGBTQI students.

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They're also having sex later, and having sex with fewer people.

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Less than 4% of students reported having sex for the first time before age 13, which is down significantly from 10% back in 1991. And just 12% of teens reported sleeping with four or more people (compared with 15% of teens reporting this in 2013). Both of these statistics had significant disparities in terms of gender (higher among male than female students) and race/ethnicity (higher among black students than Hispanic and white students).

They're starting to use more effective birth-control methods.

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The number of students taking the Pill has stayed pretty much the same, but now we're seeing more teens using long-acting birth-control methods, like the IUD and the implant.

Maybe we're looking at a more cautious, more birth-control-savvy generation, suggests Bill Albert, from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "I think they're smarter than previous generations," he told BuzzFeed. "They're simply saying, 'You know what, now is not the time for pregnancy and parenthood. Now should be the time for having fun, growing up, having an education, exploring.'"

But they're not using condoms all that often.

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Unfortunately, only about 57% of sexually active students said they used a condom the last time they had sex. That number didn't decrease significantly from the 2013 survey, but it's been declining bit-by-bit since 2003.

So even though it's great that teens are finding more effective birth-control methods, it looks like they might be using that as an excuse to forgo condoms — the only method that can protect against STIs. On a related note, rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are on the rise, with the majority of cases occurring in people under 25. "We do young people a disservice if we focus only on pregnancy prevention or only on STI prevention," says Albert. Ideally, teens would be using condoms plus a highly effective birth-control method.

Please, teens, wrap it up!

Teens are reporting less sexual violence.

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In the new report, almost 7% of teens reported ever being physically forced to have sex (down from 9% in 2003). However, about 11% of teens reported some form of sexual coercion (including kissing, touching, or being forced to have sex) by someone they were dating in the past year. And female students were about three times more likely to report this than male students.

Cigarettes are not cool, but lots of teens are vaping.

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Way fewer teens are smoking cigarettes; only about 11% of students reported smoking at least once a day.

Instead, vaping is apparently the new cool thing to do, given that 45% have tried it, and 1 in 4 teens vape regularly.

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Teens aren't even drinking or smoking weed all that often.

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Less than a third of high-school students reported drinking in the past month, compared with 45% in 2007. And only 39% of teens reported ever having smoked marijuana (down from 47% in 1997), while just 22% get high regularly (down from 26% in 1997).

The use of hallucinogenic drugs, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, methamphetamines, and steroids are all declining with teens, too. Using prescription drugs (without a prescription) is still pretty high (17%) but also declining.

Teens are still texting and driving, despite those scary AF commercials.

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Do teens not watch TV? Do they not see those commercials that seem totally normal until a huge truck comes out of nowhere and kills everybody because the driver was texting and ran a stop sign?

Apparently, because a whopping 42% of teens reported texting or emailing (EMAILING?!) while driving in the last month, which has stayed pretty much the same since 2013.

And while drinking and driving is declining (less than 8% reported doing it in the past month), 1 in 5 students said they'd been in the car with a drunk driver in the past month.

Unfortunately, some teens are still carrying weapons around.

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A surprising 16% of teens reported carrying a weapon at least once in the past month, which has been pretty consistent since 1997. There were significant disparities in terms of gender (male students were more likely than female students) and race/ethnicity (white students were more likely than black or Hispanic students).

More teens are reporting feeling sad, hopeless, or suicidal.

Nathan Pyle / BuzzFeed Comics / Via Twitter: @BuzzFeedSports

Almost a third of teens reported feeling sad or hopeless nearly every day for two or more weeks in a row in the past year. This was more common in women than in men, and more common in Hispanic students than black or white students.

In addition, 18% of students reported seriously considering attempting suicide in the past year, while 9% of students reported attempting suicide in the past year.

If you are thinking about suicide, or someone you know is, talk to someone. You can speak to someone immediately here or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

And (no surprise here) most teens aren't getting enough sleep.

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Some things never change. Only about a quarter of students reported getting eight or more hours of sleep on an average school night. But if I remember correctly, high school started at an absurd hour, so that makes sense.

*Throughout this post, we rounded data to the nearest percentage point.

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