Condoms are one of the best forms of STD prevention and birth control out there—but only about one-third of guys are consistently using condoms, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For the report, the CDC collected data through in-person interviews from more 9,321 guys aged 15 to 44 from September 2011 to September 2015. They found that only about one-third of men had used a condom during the last time they had sex in the past year. The crazy part? That’s actually an increase from 2002, when only 30 percent of guys were using a rubber.
It’s great to see more men using protection, but 33 percent is still low—too low. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely shocking information, since a recent (unscientific) survey found that 65 percent of Americans have had unprotected sex.
Here’s why skipping the glove is a huge issue: STD rates have hit an all-time high, but using a condom correctly is one of the best ways to protect you (and your partner) from transmission of diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia, which often show no noticeable symptoms, according to the CDC. (Here are four STDs you might already have.)
Plus, using a condom correctly can help prevent unintended pregnancies. Yet only 19 percent of men reported using a condom every time they had sex in the past year, while nearly 50 percent reported never using a condom during sex in the past year, according to the CDC report. (Here’s why “pulling out” can be a risky form of birth control.)
To be fair, this data only focused on overall condom use, and didn’t account for people who were in monogamous relationships, using other forms of contraception, or actually trying to have kids. But even so, when you break the numbers down by age, only 53 percent of guys aged 15 to 19 were using a condom every time they had sex. That number dipped to about 10 percent for men aged 35 to 44.
Bottom line: If you never wear a rubber—and you’re not trying to get your partner pregnant and haven’t been tested for STDs—keep in mind that you’re putting your health (and your partner’s health) at risk.
If you’re currently having casual sex with several different people, using a condom is your best bet until you feel comfortable with a single partner, according to Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., a sex researcher at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute. Once you’re committed and you both have been tested, talk to your partner about possibly looking into other forms of birth control.
Until you know for sure, finding a condom you like can help make safe sex feel a heck of a lot better.