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Health and Hookups Linked Together for First-Year College Students

Update Date: Jan 15, 2014 03:44 PM EST

Several studies have found that engaging in casual sex can negatively affect one's mental health. In a new study, researchers examined the relationship between casual sex and mental health in female, first-year college students. The researchers found that hooking up for undergraduate females was tied to depression, sexual victimization and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

For this study, researchers from Syracuse and Brown Universities analyzed the relationship between hooking up in college and mental health. The team examined 483 first year female college students. The students participated in 13 monthly surveys that asked them questions about their hookup lifestyle, romantic sexual behaviors, depressive symptoms, sexual victimization and STIs that were either self-reported or biologically confirmed. Some of the participants had provided samples that were tested by the researchers.

The researchers found that half of the students interviewed had engaged in casual sex. 62 percent of the students stated that they had romantic sex. The researchers reported that women who had an active hookup lifestyle reported more instances of sexual victimization and depression. The researchers also found that hookup activity before college was also linked to sexual victimization. The team reported that casual and romantic sex was tied to an increased rate of STIs. The researchers, however, did not find an association between casual sex and future risk of depression.

"Overall, sexual hookup behavior among college women was positively correlated with experiencing depression, SV [sexual victimization], and STIs, but the nature of these associations remains unclear, and hooking up did not predict future depression," the authors wrote.

The researchers suggested that schools need to improve their efforts in educating women about safe sex. The study, "Sexual Hookups and Adverse Health Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study of First-Year College Women," was published in The Journal of Sex Research.

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