Thursday, July 4, 2013
Casual sex linked to depression and anxiety
Posted by Neill Abayon
"Casual sex makes you depressed and anxious," the Mail Online reports today.
The headline writers have presented a statistical link as proof that one thing (casual sex) causes another (depression). While an association between the two has been observed, it is not possible to say, based on this study, that casual sex causes mental distress, or whether feeling down leads to more casual sex.
The news story is based on research into the sexual behaviour and mental wellbeing of almost 4,000 heterosexual US college students.
Researchers found that having casual sex was associated with lower levels of psychological wellbeing and higher levels of anxiety and depression in both men and women.
The problem is that in this type of study – a cross-sectional study – people are asked to provide information at one particular point in time. This tells us very little about the complex interplay between young people’s sexual behaviour and their psychological health. It is impossible to tell from a cross-sectional study whether there is a cause and effect relationship.