National Partnership for Women & Families

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60% of Young Adults Misinformed About Contraception, Study Finds

60% of Young Adults Misinformed About Contraception, Study Finds

May 17, 2012 — More than half of young men and one-quarter of young women lack understanding about contraception, according to a new study by the Guttmacher Institute, the Huffington Post reports.

Researchers surveyed 1,800 men and women ages 18 to 29 and found that six in 10 underestimated the effectiveness of oral contraception. In addition, about half of men and 69% of women said they are "committed to avoiding pregnancy," but 40% of them said birth control does not matter.

For every correct answer on the survey, a woman's chance of having unprotected sex in the following three months decreased by 9% and the likelihood of her using hormonal or long-acting birth control increased by 17%.

The study indicates that a lack of adequate sex education could be to blame for the knowledge gap, stating, "Programs to increase young adults' knowledge about contraceptive methods and use are urgently needed."

Abstinence-only education has been criticized for providing inaccurate or incomplete information on contraception, including some programs teaching that condoms have a 30% failure rate, oral contraception pills can cause cancer and that pregnancy can result from touching another person's genitals.

HHS recently reinvested in abstinence-only education, and states, including Tennessee, have passed bills to reinforce such programs (Huffington Post, 5/16).