U of M Medical School report details a first glimpse of potential impact of COVID-19 on adolescent sexual and reproductive health

June 16, 2023

Sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates and birth rates continued to decrease among Minnesota youth, according to this year’s annual report from the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Healthy Youth Development - Prevention Research Center (HYD-PRC). However, the pregnancy rate increased for the first time in more than a decade, likely due to decreased access to contraception and medical care during the pandemic.

The 2023 Minnesota Adolescent Sexual Health Report notes that chlamydia and gonorrhea rates decreased among Minnesota adolescents between 2021 and 2022. Minnesota’s pregnancy and birth rates continue to be at historic lows for 15-to-19-year-olds, even with a slight increase in pregnancy rates between 2021 and 2022. Birth rates continue to decrease across every racial and ethnic group in Minnesota. However, birth rates for American Indian, Black, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander youth are still higher than for white youth. American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic youth birth rates are higher than national figures.

“We are only just beginning to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of youth,” Jill Farris, MPH, Director of Adolescent Sexual Health Training and Education for the HYD-PRC.  “STIs decreased, but so did access to testing and treatment. The pregnancy rate increased, which may be due to reduced access to condoms and contraception during the pandemic. As we move forward post-pandemic, clinicians and educators must continue to utilize innovative strategies to meet the sexual health needs of youth.” 

The report notes that disparities in sexual health outcomes — by geography, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and ethnicity — continue to persist. Although chlamydia and gonorrhea rates decreased, STIs among youth continue to be a public health crisis. Youth bear a disproportionate burden of STIs, and Minnesota's racial/ethnic disparities are among the worst in the nation. 

Social determinants of health and demographic differences continue to play a key role in young people’s ability to access high-quality sexual health information. “We must address adolescent sexual health using an intersectional lens – one that looks beyond white-centered, cisgender, heteronormative perspectives. All young people need and deserve high-quality sexual health information,” said Farris. 

The full report aims to help Minnesotans understand the current landscape of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and how it is tied more broadly to healthy youth development. Interactive, individualized reports for each of Minnesota’s 87 counties are also provided. To learn more about the Healthy Youth Development-Prevention Research Center, visit this website

UMN has the article.