Among single people, newlyweds, and long-term partners, sex has dropped to the bottom of Americans' to-do list. According to data collected between 2010 and 2014, the average American had sex nine fewer times each year than they did between 2000 and 2004. Cohabitating married couples saw an even steeper drop, having sex 16 fewer times per year. Nevertheless, the average American adult still has sex an average of 54 times per year or slightly more than once a week.
Sex frequency may be dropping across the country, yet sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) hit an all time high in 2017. Based on the CDC's latest data collection, there were over 2 million cases of STDs, with Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis being the most common. Considering the decrease in sexual activity and the rising prevalence of STDs, are Americans slacking on practicing safe sex?
To find out, we surveyed over 1,000 people about their sexual activity, contraceptive use, and perceptions of STD testing. With STDs on the rise, are Americans taking extra precautions and following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendation for annual screenings or do they trust their partner or intuition that they're in the clear? Keep reading to find out.
Wrap It Up
There's no perfect way to have safe sex, but contraceptives can prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Condoms are, by far, the most common contraceptive used, especially by men. Nearly 60% of men reported using condoms, while 28.7% of women said the same. Despite the variety of contraceptives, 22.3% of men and 22.8% of women didn't use any contraceptives. While it may come down to personal preference, people could be sidestepping birth control due to the side effects that come with it.
Condoms may come with a risk of failure, but in terms of the health side effects, skin irritation and allergic reactions are as far as they go – and with various types of condoms, these can often be easily avoided. However, birth control pills and IUDs, which 22.2% and 13.4% of women used, respectively, can cause headaches, nausea, weight gain, mood swings, and even increase the risk of cancer after long-term use.
Never Have I Ever
One in 3 respondents had never been tested for an STD, with baby boomers the least likely to have undergone testing at nearly 45% of respondents. Despite sex typically decreasing with age, STD rates among older adults are a growing problem. According to the CDC, young adults had the highest prevalence of STDs in 2017, but those aged 65 and older also saw a steep increase in numerous STDs.
Some may have suspected that millennials would be the least likely to check up on their sexual health, and while they were more likely than Gen Xers never to have been tested, the reason may not lie in ignorance, laziness, or carelessness. It may have to do with abstinence or a later launch of their sex life.
Despite the CDC's recommendation for annual STD screenings, women (58.2%) and married individuals (68.5%) were the most likely to forgo testing in the past year.
While STD testing is crucial – as many STDs come with no symptoms – an annual checkup isn't enough. Practicing safe sex can help prevent STDs for both men and women, but when protection isn't used, women are at particularly high risk mostly due to anatomical differences. Luckily, women were 17 percentage points more likely than men to get tested for an STD.
When it came to the reasons behind not getting tested, trust seemed to be the root. Nearly 65% of men and 71% of women believed that their sexual partners were clean. While this reason was also the most common for those in a relationship, people also tended to trust their instincts. Forty-eight percent of men and 42.7% of women hadn't been tested because they thought they were in the clear despite no medical proof. Not experiencing any symptoms was also common for both genders and all relationship statuses. It's important to note, however, that a lack of symptoms is a faulty reason to forgo testing – some of the most common STDs don't cause any symptoms, especially in women.
Making a Change
Considering the most common STDs don't have symptoms, and people trust their partners enough to forgo contraceptives, it often takes a discussion to remind the sexually active about testing. Taking a survey in which you're forced to think about and reflect on safe sex practices and the frequency of testing – or lack thereof – should be a pretty good eye-opener.
Twenty-three percent of respondents said they were more inclined to practice safe sex after participating in this study. On the same note, nearly 20% of respondents said they were more inclined to get tested for an STD after taking our survey. Nevertheless, it seems old habits die hard – 80% of respondents who had never been tested weren't influenced to practice safer sex or get tested.
Time for Testing
Aside from abstinence, practicing safe sex is the best way to avoid contracting an STD. No matter how much we trust our partners, there are always risks when sex doesn't involve a condom, birth control, or other contraceptives. Regardless of your safe sex practices, or the number of sexual partners, STD testing is imperative for catching curable infections early, implementing the correct treatment, and preventing long-term consequences.
Whether you're due for your next sexual health checkup or feel more inclined to get tested, Health Testing Centers can take care of all of your testing needs. Select the tests you need, order them online, and select the lab closest to you. And if your test qualifies, we can send a testing kit straight to your home. To learn more, visit us online today.
We conducted a survey of 1,002 respondents through Amazon Mechanical Turk. The respondents who were excluded missed the attention-check question or indicated that they had not been sexually active in the past year. Throughout the survey, any outliers were excluded from our data. From the able respondents, 49.8% were women, and 50.2% were men. Our respondents ranged in age from 18 to 87 with a mean of 34 and a standard deviation of 10.76.
The data we are presenting are self-reported. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include but are not limited to selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration. As a result, the outliers in this study have been excluded.
Fair Use Statement
STD testing is vital to staying healthy and safe, but it often slips from people's minds. If you'd like to remind those close to you that it's time to get tested, feel free to share this study. The graphics and content are available for noncommercial reuse. Just don't forget to link back to this page to give the authors proper credit.