Sex

How casual sex is linked to depression

A new study has found casual hook-ups can lead to psychological issues.

New research from California State University shows that having casual sex can have a direct link with negative psychological and emotional issues.

Using the largest sample ever surveyed on the topic, including both men and women, the results showed that those who’d had bedtime fun with somebody they had known for a week or less suffered from higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Sexpert Nikki Goldstein explains: “Often we have causal sex as a way of trying to validate ourselves - not because we want to feel good. Then after we actually have sex we realise that wasn’t the right validation, so we’re left with empty feelings. In the lead-up, excitement builds up and emotions are running high, then the guys leaves afterwards and we’re left feeling more empty than before.

"Using casual sex as a crutch or coping mechanism can leave you feeling worse, and if you already suffer from depression or anxiety it’s more likely to provoke those kinds of feeling than in an average person,” Goldstein says.

The study focused mainly on male university students, as they are statistically more likely to engage in casual sex. The results therefore suggest that while guys may big-up casual lovin’ and random hook-ups, they might not be enjoying it as much as they make out.

What the research doesn’t determine is whether casual sex leads to depression and anxiety, or if feelings of sadness and depression lead people to have casual sex. Goldstein believes that: “People that are one night stands become depressed if they have an underlying issue to start off with. There can be subconscious feelings of depression or anxiety which then manifest through having casual sex.”

On the flip-side, everyone knows that sexy-time results in happy hormones and endorphins being released – meaning positive vibes, and it can’t all be doom and gloom. Goldstein says: “It boils down to a debate between psychology and biology. Biologically there are health benefits linked with sex such as it lowers blood pressure, illicits feel-good hormones and it can actually reduce feelings of stress and anxiety – but it has to be under the right circumstances and situations. Deliberately using sex as a solution to underlying negative feelings is not healthy and will not solve the problem, more likely make it worse.”

A recent study by Durex reported that 96 percent of people asked thought that sex was better when it’s with somebody they have an emotional connection with. So perhaps having a friend with benefits a happy medium?

Sex and relationship expert Chantelle Austin says no-strings attached sex with a “friend” has loads of, er, upsides: “Multiple short-term FWB relationships can keep a feeling of romance and initial fire ongoing, as one loses its spark, a new one can be started. The downside, never getting into the deep love connection but then, you have to go through a few false starts until you find that life-partner in crime.”