NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Masturbation could play an important role in sexual self-awareness and condom use in teenage boys, according to a new report.
Researchers found 86 percent of boys who said they'd worn a condom last time they had sex also reported masturbating over the past year, compared to only 44 percent of boys who didn't masturbate.
While that link doesn't prove that masturbation itself leads to safer sex, "the association of any behavior with increased condom use deserves further investigation, given the rates of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections in adolescents," the report says.
In 2009, there were nearly 410,000 births to girls aged 15 to 19 in the U.S., where teen motherhood racks up public costs of an estimated $9.1 billion.
The new study, supported by Trojan condom maker Church & Dwight Co, is based on a nationally representative survey of 820 adolescents between 14 and 17 years old.
Dr. Cynthia Robbins at Indiana University in Indianapolis and colleagues found that nearly three-quarters of boys said they masturbated, while less than half of girls did so.
Those kids who masturbated reported having more sex than those who didn't, including oral sex and vaginal intercourse.
After taking age and partner status into account, sexually active boys who masturbated were about eight times as likely to have used a condom during their last intercourse as boys who didn't masturbate.
For unknown reasons, there was no such link for girls.
Writing in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the researchers note that masturbation is a highly stigmatized topic in the U.S., and that many doctors shy away from discussing the common phenomenon.
"The findings of this study together with existing publications on masturbation should be used by health care providers to inform, educate and reassure adolescents about masturbation to provide competent and comprehensive sexuality education in the clinical setting," they conclude.
SOURCE: bit.ly/DJa42 Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, online August 1, 2011.