Teenagers may be irresponsible about a lot of things, but when it comes to condom use, they're actually more careful than grownups.

In a study of sexually active 14- to 17-year-olds, 80 percent of the boys and 69 percent of the girls reported using a condom the last time they'd had sex. This compared with fewer than half the grownups who reported having had casual sex.

The report, based on responses from nearly 6,000 people (800 of them under the age of 18) is from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Researchers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University worked on the report, which was the first one to include people as young as 14 and as old as 94.

The news that older guys aren't using condoms as regularly as younger ones may seem surprising, but it's older guys who often struggle more with erection difficulties. Older men who have erectile dysfunction (ED) may not want to use condoms because they feel it makes the sexual experience not quite as enjoyable.
"They claim that it decreases their sensitivity and pleasure and also, putting on the condom interferes with the spontaneity of sexual intercourse," says Franklin C. Lowe, MD, MPH, director of urology at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. "And in older men who have started having some issues in terms of performance, using a condom can cause difficulties."

Taking time out to put on a condom may cause a man to lose an erection, he says.

And some men are just simply resistant to the idea of a condom usage, says Gary Rogg, MD, internist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "Men may think that it will ruin the moment," he says. "Or a man may assume that the woman is on birth control or think that she is close to her menstrual period."

However, using condoms is a great idea for two reasons:
  1. protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and
  2. pregnancy prevention, says Ciril Godec, MD, of Long Island College Hospital in New York City.
"Condoms can reduce the incidence of STDs by up to 90 percent if used correctly," Godec says. "Of course, if a condom is put on sloppily and semen oozes out, then there's not protection against an STD."
People tend to be sexually active earlier than they were in the past, and there's heightened concern about STDs, Lowe says. Preventing an STD in the first place is certainly preferable to treating an individual once he contracts an infection.

"Certainly with the current sexual mores, and sexual activity occurring younger, condom usage should be ubiquitous," Lowe says.