Good or Bad: How Does Casual Sex Affect Your Mental Health?

Some people say the best way to get over an ex is to get under someone else, but this may do more damage to your mental wellness – not to mention your sexual health – than the ego boost you were looking for. This is according to a new study, published in The Journal of Sex Research, which found that young adults in college suffered from ‘higher levels of general anxiety, social anxiety, and depression’ after engaging in casual sex.


For the study, casual sex was defined as ‘having intercourse with a partner one has known for less than a week.’ Over 3,900 18- to 25-year-old college students, who consider themselves to be single and heterosexual, participated in the study. The results revealed that, after having casual sex, both men and women experienced a decrease in wellbeing and an increase in psychological distress, in spite of the fact that men reported engaging in casual sex more than women. The researchers surmised that the negative sense of wellbeing could be due to sexual regret, and casual sex could be a symptom of general problematic behaviour.


Still, this was not the case in 2009, when researchers at the University of Minnesota found that ‘young adults engaging in casual sexual encounters do not appear to be at increased risk for harmful psychological outcomes as compared to sexually active young adults in more committed relationships.’ So as casual sex becomes more prevalent in our society, how does this type of sex really impact physical and mental health?


In an American Psychological Association report released earlier this year about the “sexual hook-up culture,” studies were outlined as showing both positive and negative mental health effects from casual sex. In this report, hook-ups were defined as ‘brief uncommitted sexual encounters between individuals who are not romantic partners or dating each other,’ and one 2008 study showed that 57% of women were glad they hooked-up the morning after. Yet other studies found that while, in certain cases, casual sex can relieve some depressive symptoms and loneliness, it can also lower your self-esteem depending on who you are as a person.

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