Friday, August 11, 2006

The CDC's calculation of multiple sex partners throws me off balance

the number of teens ever having had sexual intercourse decreased from 54.1 to 46.8 percent; the prevalence of multiple (four or more) sex partners [emphasis is mine] decreased from 18.7 to 14.3 percent; the prevalence of current sexual activity (within the past three months) decreased from 37.4 percent to 33.9 percent; and the prevalence of condom use increased from 46.2 percent to 62.8 percent.

- "Fewer Teens Engage in Risky Sexual Behavior," HealthDay News, THURSDAY, Aug. 10, 2006 by Amanda Gardner, HealthDay Reporter

This is common knowledge and not contraversial: it takes two to tango and three's a crowd. But I'm thrown off balance by one of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s calculations of "Priority health-risk behaviors" among students in grades 9 through 12. In my estimation, "Had Sexual Intercourse with Four or More Persons During Their Life" is a high number when talking about teens. Without further explantion, the feds' choice of that figure (as opposed to two or three) doesn't add up.

Nonetheless, four was the score that counted in eight national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys that examined recent trends in American teen behavior. The data, collected anonymously from private and public school students between 1991 and 2005, reflected both bad news and good news and raised some questions.

Ms. Gardner's article sums up the findings. To see the work behind it, one can access MMWR Surveillance Summaries: June 9, 2006 / 55(SS05);1-108: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance --- United States, 2005 and other resources at YRBSS: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System - DASH/Healthy Youth or order CDC Youth Risk Behavior resources from