Young people who have casual sex are more likely to suffer from depression, according to a new study.
Experts have found higher levels of general anxiety, social anxiety and depression among students who recently had sex with someone they knew for less than a week.
In the largest study of its kind involving 3,900 heterosexual students, 11 per cent – the majority of whom were men – said they had engaged in casual sex in the past month.
Lead author of the study, Dr Melina Bersamin, from California State University, said both men and women in this group said they were experiencing anxiety and depression as a result of their sexual encounters.
Dr Bersamin said: ‘It is premature to conclude that casual sexual encounters pose no harmful psychological risks for young adults.
‘The results suggest that among heterosexual college students, casual sex was negatively associated with well-being and positively associated with psychological distress.’
The researchers also investigated the role of gender in determining mental distress linked to casual sex.
Previous studies have found that women respond more negatively to casual sex than men, possibly because of double standards that allow men to have more sexual encounters with a greater number of partners than women.
Researchers have yet to determine whether existing mental health problems cause young adults to engage in riskier behaviours.