Premarital sex unlikely to lead to depression, study says

For years, abstinence-only supporters have assumed early sex did lead to depression.

Kelly Gulbrandson

According to a new study, young people who lose their virginity early in life might not be at a higher risk for depression, as previously thought.

The study, released by the University’s sociology department last week, said that while some girls who became sexually active without being in a committed relationship before the age of 15 suffer from depression in their lives, a majority did not. Researchers found the same for boys under the age of 14.

Ann Meier, associate sociology professor, said the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health was conducted to evaluate sexual behavior in teenagers.

“Professional interviewers asked teenagers a basic set of questions on their sexual behavior from throughout the country,” Meier said.

She said abstinence-only education has been discussed by both state and federal governments since the 1990s.

Many teachers assumed abstinence-only education was the only way to teach young people about sex. That included the assumption premarital sex, without a committed relationship, had an adverse impact on mental health, Meier said.

She said she knew before the study that, in certain instances, young people would be affected by having premarital sex while in noncommitted relationships.

University art student Katie Callander said she does not believe premarital sex would influence a person’s mental health.

“There are a lot of factors that lead to depression,” Callander said.

She said as long as young people are safe, are personally ready and do not act against personal beliefs, premarital sex is acceptable.

Chris Kwong, community program associate in the University’s medical school, said women could be more affected mentally from premarital sex than men, but there are also a lot of unknowns on the subject.

“When you are young, you do not know that you do not know that you are too young for sex,” Kwong said.

Meier said the broader implications of the study are that early sex can have a negative psychological effect on girls, and schools should have more comprehensive sexual education.

The results of the national study do not show people being sexually active at an early age would be without problems, Meier said.

She also said there are no positive effects from losing virginity early, and although the section of people who have mental problems is lower than once expected, it is still a relatively large number of young people.