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London - Casual sex can cause depression and can even lead to thoughts of suicide, a new study suggests.
Researchers interviewed around 10 000 people and found that teenagers with depressive symptoms were more likely to engage in casual sex.
These same people were more likely to seriously consider suicide later in life, according to the study.
Dr Sara Sandberg-Thoma, of Ohio State University and lead author of the study, said: “Several studies have found a link between poor mental health and casual sex, but the nature of that association has been unclear.
“There’s always been a question about which one is the cause and which is the effect.
“This study provides evidence that poor mental health can lead to casual sex, but also that casual sex leads to additional declines in mental health.”
Young people from 80 American junior schools and 52 middle schools were interviewed when they were in grades seven to 12 and then again when they were aged 18 to 26.
They were asked questions about relationships, depression and thoughts of suicide. A total of 29 percent of the subjects said they had experience of a casual sexual relationship, which was defined as “only having sex” with someone as opposed to dating.
This included 33 percent of men and 24 percent of women.
The link between casual sex and mental health was found to be the same for both men and women, according to the study published in the Journal of Sex Research.
Dr Claire Kamp Dush, professor of human sciences at Ohio State University, said: “That was unexpected because there is still this sexual double standard in society that says it is okay for men to have casual sexual relationships, but it is not OK for women.
“But these results suggest that poor mental health and casual sex are linked, whether you’re a man or a woman.”
Researchers found that each additional casual sexual relationship increased the odds of suicidal thoughts by 18 percent.
However, they also found that although casual sex was linked to suicidal thoughts, it did not have any effect on depressive symptoms.
It is thought that this may be because depressive symptoms fluctuate during adolescence and it was hard to capture an accurate reading when it was only measured twice.
“Just because a person does not indicate depressive symptoms in one survey is not always proof that he or she is doing okay,” said Dr Kamp Dush.
“We need to look at multiple indicators of mental health, including suicidal thoughts.”
“The goal should be to identify adolescents struggling with poor mental health so that we can intervene early before they engage in casual sexual relationships,” said Sandberg-Thoma.
“Young adulthood is a time when people begin to learn how to develop long-term, satisfying and intimate relationships,” said Dr Kamp Dush. – Daily Mail