US Men's Condom Use Is on the Rise

Condoms in a jean pocket
Condoms have a 98 percent success rate with perfect use, but with typical use they fail 15 percent of the time. (Image credit: artiomp/Shutterstock)

More than one-third of adult men in the United States now say they use condoms during sex, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report authors surveyed more than 20,000 men and women ages 15 to 44 from 2011 to 2015, and compared their responses to those from a similar survey in 2002. The researchers asked the participants about their use of male condoms and other methods of contraception during intercourse with a partner of the opposite sex within the past year.

About one-third of the men, or 33.7 percent, said they used a condom the last time they had sex. That's up from 29.5 percent in 2002, the report said.

Among the women in the 2011-2015 survey, 23.8 percent said the guy they had sex with used a condom the last time they had sex. That's nearly identical to the finding from the 2002 survey, in which 23.4 percent of the women said the man used a condom the last time they had sex.

"The increase in condom use among men … is 'good news' because it is a positive step toward reducing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States," study author Casey E. Copen, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Live Science in an email. [The 10 Most Surprising Sex Statistics]

However, although condom use is increasing overall among men (ages 15 to 44), there was not an increase in use among U.S. teens, who have one of the highest rates of STIs, Copen said. (The rate of condom use among male teens ages 15 to 19 has remained around 55 percent since 2002.)

Considering there's been an increase in STIs — including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis infections — in recent years in the United States, "there is still more work to do to reduce the spread of these infections," Copen said.

The higher rate of condom use reported by men compared with women may be due, in part, to the greater number of contraceptive choices available to women, including birth control pills, implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs), Copen said. "Women have more choices [than men] when it comes to contraceptive methods that can be used to prevent pregnancy," Copen said.

 In addition, women may be more likely to have male partners who are older (over 44) and less likely to use condoms, compared with men in the study, Copen said.

Although women's reports of male condom use in the study did not show an increase compared with reports in 2002, previous studies found a rise in other types of female contraception, including a fivefold increase in IUDs and subdermal implants over the past decade, Copen said. Although those devices are meant to prevent pregnancy, they don't shield against STIs.

The study also found that, for both men and women, reports of condom use within the past month varied depending on the respondent's number of sexual partners and their relationship status.

For example, among the women who were engaged, married or cohabiting with their partner, 12 percent said their male partner always used a condom during sex. But among the women who had "just met" their partner, or only went out with their partner "once in a while," 43 percent indicated condom use.

For men, 14 percent of those who were engaged, married or cohabiting said they always used a condom when they had sex, compared with 60 percent of those who had "just met" their partner.

However, even if condoms are used, they are often used inconsistently, the study found. Among the women who said their partner used a condom in the past month, one-quarter (25.8 percent) said the condom was used for only part of the time during sex, meaning it was put on after they started having sex or taken off before ejaculation. Future surveys will examine condom use problems in more detail, the researchers said.

The report was published today (Aug. 10) by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.