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Scientists link millennial casual sex trend to depression

It has been reported by several studies that millennials are having more casual sex than previous generations. While that in and of itself isn’t the worst thing, the reason behind it may be more troubling.

According to a new study in the Journal of Sex Research, having a lot of casual sex may mean you also suffer from anxiety and depression. While the scientists still aren’t sure which came first — the depression or the sex — there is a definite link between them.

This came as a bit of a surprise to me, because there have also been several studies claiming more sex equals more happiness. There’s even one Scandinavian study that claimed upping your sex frequency from once a month to once a week was the happiness equivalent to getting an extra $50,000. So how could it cause or be related to the opposite effect?

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The study came to the conclusion by surveying 3,907 heterosexual students between the ages of 18 and 25 from over 30 schools in the United States. This was the largest sample of participants ever collected for a singular study in this field. The survey went right to the point — it asked students if they had engaged in sex with someone they’d known less than a week recently. Of the surveyed group, 11 percent said they had done so in the last month, and the majority of that percentage was male. The study also inquired into the students’ well-being and levels of stress.

Leader of the study, Dr. Melina M. Bersamin of California State University, Sacramento, had this to say on their results. “[The results] suggest that among heterosexual college students, casual sex was negatively associated with well-being and positively associated with psychological distress.” While I’m not sure this would’ve been the case if they had surveyed a more varied group (aka, not all college students), it certainly sheds some light on how young adults of that age react to such a pressurized environment, and I’m not talking academically speaking.

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College kids are pushed together in so many social situations throughout the college experience, it’s no wonder they feel more inclined to have casual sex, especially if all their peers are engaging in it. When I was at college, so much of daily life was about fitting in — sometimes that meant joining a sorority, and sometimes it meant hooking up with that guy at a party because your friends were pushing you to do it.

The study also looked at the role gender plays on the link between mental health and casual sex. While several previous studies found more of a correlation between depression and casual sex in women than in men, this one found no difference between the sexes in their data. This makes perfect sense, because the gender playing fields have leveled off significantly in recent years.

While the study was inconclusive about whether the casual sex was causing the depression and anxiety or vice versa, my money’s on the sex being a symptom of a deeper social disorder. There is so much pressure on so many different levels at that age, it’s not surprising that millennials are turning up the sex to deal with it or feel obligated to do so, because that’s what the world around them expects.

More: Hook-up culture may be making your teen depressed

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