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Teenagers Indulging in Casual Sex More Likely to Be Depressed

Update Date: Dec 06, 2012 01:43 PM EST

A new study suggests that youngsters who go for casual sex may be at higher risk for depression when compared to those who are dating and are sexually active within a committed relationship.

According to the study, such teenagers "hooking-up" randomly have three times higher risk of clinical-level depression. The theory has been found to be true for all teenagers who participated in this study, irrespective of their gender.

However, dating or sexual activity within a stable relationship was not found to contribute to any such risk of mental disorder.

"Many historical and media perspectives have presented adolescent sexuality as an indicator of problematic or even socially deviant behavior," Lead author of the study, Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development in Cornell's College of Human Ecology, said. "But this study and other recent findings are showing that's not the case, and adolescent dating and sexuality can be viewed as normal developmental behavior."

The researchers for this study, compared the responses of 1,551 sibling pairs (who grew up in the same home) aged 13 to 18 in the mid-1990s. Among other topics, the teens also answered questions pertaining to their sexual history and dating. While two-thirds of the participants had dated, two-thirds of them were reportedly virgins.

The researchers compare the data of siblings in order to be able to control the experiment for family and environmental influences that could raise one's risk for depression.

"We designed the study to give us a purer way to isolate many of the factors that could be contributing to depression," Mendle said. "It allows us to compare specific types of social activities-in this case, dating and romantic and nonromantic sex-to see their overall effect."

The findings of the study revealed that teenagers who indulged in casual sex were more likely show depressive symptoms than others.

According to Mendle, adolescent sexuality is important because it determined to a great extent as to how people transition into adults.

"One of the hallmarks of adolescence is the formation of romantic relationships, and we know that what happens in adolescence is strongly related to your psychological, physical and financial well-being for years to come," Mendle said.

"Findings like this can help shape the dialogue and public debate about how to best support teen sexual health, psychological development and other areas."

The research is published online in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

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