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Sexually Active Teenagers Are More Likely to Be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide

Robert E. Rector, Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., and Lauren R. Noyes

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Center for Data Analysis Report #03-04
The Heritage Foundation

Teenage sexual activity is an issue of wide­spread national concern. Although teen sexual activity has declined in recent years, the overall rate is still high. In 1997, approximately 48 percent of American teenagers of high-school age were or had been sexually active.

The problems associated with teen sexual activity are well-known. Every day, 8,000 teen­agers in the United States become infected by a sexually transmitted disease. This year, nearly 3 million teens will become infected. Overall, roughly one-quarter of the nation's sexually active teens have been infected by a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

The problems of pregnancy and out-of-wed­lock childbearing are also severe. In 2000, some 240,000 children were born to girls aged 18 or younger. Nearly all these teenage moth­ers were unmarried. These mothers and their children have an extremely high probability of long-term poverty and welfare dependence. Less widely known are the psychological and emotional problems associated with teen­age sexual activity. The present study exam­ines the linkage between teenage sexual activity and emotional health. The findings show that:

When compared to teens who are not sex­ually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly less likely to be happy and more likely to feel depressed.

When compared to teens who are not sex­ually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly more likely to attempt suicide.

Thus, in addition to its role in promoting teen pregnancy and the current epidemic of STDs, early sexual activity is a substantial fac­tor in undermining the emotional well-being of American teenagers.

Read the entire report on The Heritage Foundation website.



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