Earlier this year, we were encouraged by data showing that today’s teenagers aren’t making the same mistakes (or at least mistakes at the same rates) as their parents in terms of:

  • Tobacco and alcohol use. Both at historic low levels. (Smoking tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.)
  • Illicit drug use. Declining for the most part, though the use of cannabis has been steady.
  • Teen pregnancy rates. Cut in half over the past 20 years.
  • Youth incarceration rates. Down.
  • Bullying. All-time low.
  • Completed youth suicides. Well below historical highs.


New data from the government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) adds to the perception that, as Sabrina Tavernise says, America’s youth continues to “shift away from the habits of their parents”:

Just 9.6 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 17, reported using alcohol in 2015, down from 17.6 percent in 2002, according to the data. Far fewer adolescents smoke every day: about 20 percent in 2015, down from 32 percent in 2002.


And while the number of teenagers having sex has also been declining, a new study published recently in the Journal of Adolescent Health attributes the marked decline of teen pregnancy rates (and teen abortion rates) to the expanded use of contraceptives among sexually active teenagers. Nicholas Bakalar reports that teen pregnancies have been declining steadily at an annual rate of 5.6%:

The percentage of teenagers who reported using contraception increased to 86 percent from 78 percent, and the share using more than one method increased to 37 percent from 26 percent.

The declines in pregnancies and births, the authors conclude, are entirely attributable to improvements in contraceptive use and contraceptive technology.

“These high rates of contraception and low rates of pregnancy are historically unprecedented,” said the lead author, Laura Lindberg, a research scientist with the Guttmacher Institute. “The long-term decline in teen pregnancy and teen births has been brought about by teenagers making considered and responsible decisions.”


We all should feel encouraged when the words “responsible” and “teenagers” are used correctly in the same sentence!


(Image: “Birth Rates (Live Births) per 1,000 Females Aged 15–19 Years, by Race and Hispanic Ethnicity, Select Years,” Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (CDC))