Banner
    College Promiscuity Linked To Anxiety And Depression
    By News Staff | June 29th 2013 10:46 PM | 11 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    As narratives of modern “hook-up” culture in young people take center stage in popular media, behavioral researchers are starting to ask what psychological consequences, if any, may be in store for young adults who engage in casual sex.

    A new survey found higher levels of general anxiety, social anxiety, and depression among students who recently had casual sex.

    The authors surveyed over 3,900 heterosexual college students from across the United States about their casual sex behaviors and mental well-being. “Casual sex” was defined as having intercourse with a partner one has known for less than a week. Students from over 30 institutions around the country completed the online survey, making this the largest sample to be collected for a study on this topic. On average, 11% of students reported a casual sex encounter during the month prior to the survey, the majority of whom were men.

    The work was led by Dr. Melina M. Bersamin of California State University, Sacramento. According to Bersamin, “It is premature to conclude that casual sexual encounters pose no harmful psychological risks for young adults.” The results “suggest that among heterosexual college students, casual sex was negatively associated with well-being and positively associated with psychological distress.”

    The researchers also investigated the role of gender in determining mental distress linked to casual sex. Prior studies have found that women respond more negatively to casual sex than men, possibly because of double standards that allow men to have more sexual encounters with a greater number of partners than women. In this study, however, gender did not have an effect on outcomes.

    “Risky Business” opens the door to future research questions about causal links between sexual behavior and mental health. Researchers have yet to determine whether casual sex leads to psychological distress, or if existing mental health problems cause young adults to engage in riskier behaviors.

    Citation: Melina M. Bersamin, Byron L. Zamboanga, Seth J. Schwartz, M. Brent Donnellan, Monika Hudson, Robert S. Weisskirch, Su Yeong Kim, V. Bede Agocha, Susan Krauss Whitbourne&S. Jean Caraway, 'Risky Business: Is There an Association between Casual Sex and Mental Health among Emerging Adults?', Journal of Sex Research, Published online: 07 Jun 2013 DOI:10.1080/00224499.2013.772088

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    I think the notion that there is some kind of arbitrary "double standard" that somehow exists independently of social individuals is wishful thinking.  If there are negative psychological consequences to casual sex, it is due to individual's beliefs, and cultural influences.

    Therefore if individuals are affected by such internal viewpoints, then it is clear that they need to control their behavior in accordance with their own belief system.  I am concerned that there are too many instances of where people feel compelled to act in ways that contradict their own internal beliefs simply because there's some sense that somehow they should feel differently than they do.

    As a result, I suspect we tend to see behaviors that are more in line with what people think others expect rather than being true to their own sensibilities.  After all, it would be difficult to expect psychological stress occurring from behavior that is in line with personal beliefs and moral views.

    Perhaps instead of telling young people that casual sex is acceptable or that abstinence is acceptable, they should be taught that their own comfort level is what's acceptable and not to give in to pressure from either quarter if it doesn't square with their own sense of well-being.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Perhaps instead of telling young people that casual sex is acceptable or that abstinence is acceptable, they should be taught that their own comfort level is what's acceptable and not to give in to pressure from either quarter if it doesn't square with their own sense of well-being.
    Gerhard, I think you maybe missed your vocation as a professional counselor. This is often a very difficult time for young people who are not necessarily sure of what is even acceptable to themselves or what they believe in, so they are often experimenting to try to find this out. The article says that 'a new survey found higher levels of general anxiety, social anxiety, and depression among students who recently had casual sex'. It also said that 'prior studies have found that women respond more negatively to casual sex than men, possibly because of double standards that allow men to have more sexual encounters with a greater number of partners than women. In this study, however, gender did not have an effect on outcomes.'

    They say that '“Risky Business” opens the door to future research questions about causal links between sexual behavior and mental health. Researchers have yet to determine whether casual sex leads to psychological distress, or if existing mental health problems cause young adults to engage in riskier behaviors.'

    I think that there is another factor that should be investigated here, how many of these young people who had casual sex and then suffered general anxiety, social anxiety and depression engaged in the casual sex while under the influence of alcohol or some other mind altering drug? Losing social inhibitions while under the influence of a mind altering drug and then having to face the social and psychological consequences afterwards, may have also been an important factor and probably needs more research.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Based on potential anxiety that you can't undo after having sex isn't it then better to abstain until your inner guide is convinced It's time?
    Abstinence can be fixed, having sex can't.

    Gerhard Adam
    I don't believe the issue is sex as much as it is the casual nature of it.  That seems to be a dichotomy in today's society where there's a general attitude that casual sex is the norm and quite routine, and yet young people experience anxiety and stress when they discover that it just ain't so.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Gerhard, how would you or Mi Cro know what the social and psychological effects of casual sex are yourselves unless you've tried it? Somehow I can't imagine either of you ever doing this, or maybe I just don't want to :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm only responding to the assertion that casual sex can lead to psychological stress.  If that connection is true, then it suggests that people are engaging in casual sex under some motivation other than their own desires.  That's what I'm trying to address.

    My point isn't to argue that it is good or bad, only that it should be something that someone knowingly chooses and not feels pressured into engaging in simply because it's considered acceptable by a group.  As you well know, in the wrong person, such interactions can be devastating to an individual's self-esteem if they feel that they've betrayed their own beliefs simply to be accepted and then perhaps even have it backfire on them.

    My only concern is that I believe that too many people are feeling pressured to behave in ways that they may not personally be comfortable with.  In many ways, our society has become fixated on the mechanics of sex or the resultant possibility of pregnancy and ignored the much more subtle and potentially insidious consequences of being unprepared psychologically for sexual encounters and/or relationships.

    Sex is the easy bit.  It's having your head screwed on straight that's a bit harder [sorry about the pun].
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    BTW, it wouldn't matter if we tried it or not, since such an experience would be purely subjective and anecdotal anyway.  Even if there was no impact on ourselves, there's nothing to say that there wouldn't be an entirely different impact on our partners.  There's simply no way to make a generalized statement about it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat

    I mean did you ever have casual sex when you were a young person, before you had a steady partner?The seventies when you were young, were a very promiscuous time too weren't they?
    BTW, it wouldn't matter if we tried it or not, since such an experience would be purely subjective and anecdotal anyway.  Even if there was no impact on ourselves, there's nothing to say that there wouldn't be an entirely different impact on our partners. There's simply no way to make a generalized statement about it.
    OK, so why are you making a generalized statement about it then?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not.  I'm saying that people need to behave according to their own values and beliefs and not be driven by social pressures.  The article is making the allegation that casual sex leads to increased psychological stress.  Unless there's a new definition of "stress", this would suggest that all is not well in "Wonderland".

    Therefore if this is a negative consequence, then one has to examine why anyone would engage in activities that produce negative results unless they were acting against their own fundamental beliefs and/or interests.  Again, it's one thing to make a mistake or experiment, it's quite another if the individual is behaving in a particular manner because they believe it will garner them social acceptance.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Therefore if this is a negative consequence, then one has to examine why anyone would engage in activities that produce negative results unless they were acting against their own fundamental beliefs and/or interests. 
    As I said earlier, I would like to know if much of the casual sex also results from lowered inhibitions resulting from taking large amounts of alcohol or buying unregulated, illicit, mind altering drugs, such as ecstasy, cocaine and ice which everyone knows are often rampant at most of these young people's social venues. Its one thing to feel OK about having casual sex, its however quite another thing to wake up in bed with a bogun and not even remember what happened the night before because of the alcohol and/or drugs taken!


    This is a marvellous opportunity for people who have never had casual sex to get all preachy about the morality of casual sex when really it might be that these kids see the same preachy people like their parents even, drinking large amounts of alcohol at home, watching TV in a much safer, older person's environment. Or alternatively, maybe they are so disillusioned about their societies values and direction in general, that they escape into the socially acceptable world of mind altering, illegal drugs and then suffer the obvious consequences of choosing a regrettable casual sex partner, when they were ecstatic about nothing and couldn't even think straight?


    Maybe if the drugs these young people buy and take were at least better controlled, less dangerous and not illegal, there would be less casual sex that is later regretted and less social and psychological anxiety afterwards? Also, maybe if society could give young people more hope about the future, they would feel less need to escape into casual relationships with both drugs and people that they might regret and have social and psychological anxiety about later?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I can agree that it is a difficult time for young people, but [in my view] a significant part of the problem is that we are performing a grand experiment on our young by refusing to define any set of values beyond the notion that everything is acceptable.

    While in principle, this may be true regarding value judgements it invariably isn't when one takes into account personal insecurities and comfort levels.  So, by maintaining a kind of "anything goes" attitude, we are denying young people the guidance necessary to feel that they can say no or resist peer pressures.  As a result, I feel that too many are simply swept along by the crowd and are not comfortable with that direction.

    Most young people exist in a state of cognitive dissonance by believing that they are rebellious and non-conformist, while their reality is horror at the thought that they would be considered rebellious or non-conformist to their peer group.  It is this struggle that often requires reassurance that their own feelings are paramount over peer-group pressures.
    Mundus vult decipi