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
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Thank You Guido
- VB-111 Gene Therapy Doubles Survival In Recurrent Glioblastoma
- Replacing Exercise With A Pill
- 'Greenwashing' Perception Sullies Eco-Friendly Reputation
- September 24th, 2015 - Just Another Day In Space - Asteroid Flybys, "Blood Moons" And Armageddon Demystified
- Online Market For Invasive Plants Is Booming
- Public Health vs. EU's Tobacco Product Directive: The Battle is Joined
- "Oh, are you talking about the numbers? The 24 hours with a set tilt of 23.44 degrees (which..."
- "Robert,'WHAT embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but absence of self-criticism.'and'So..."
- "Thanks Robert. I very much appreciate your reply. I read it carefully. It certainly would be classified..."
- "Hi Joe, I've been traveling and limited access because I left my keyboard behind and had to buy..."
- "Well Robert, To put it another way, show me in a compelling manner how this precise system came..."
- Stimulant meds safe, effective for children with ADHD and congenital heart disease
- Hotel 'greenwashing' dirties eco-friendly reputation
- Coincidence or conspiracy? Investigating if believers see so much secret design
- 'Greenwashing' actually dirties eco-friendly reputation
- Language about climate change differs between proponents and skeptics