We learn it from movies, television and real life: College is the place for casual sex. Meeting lots of people at parties, bars, dorms and classrooms means there are plenty of opportunities for it. And a mutual love for “The Daily Show” is reason enough to sleep with someone, right? Well, maybe not.
When hormones are raging, you probably don’t want to wait around for a relationship to have sex if you’re not already in one, but after a recent Ohio State University study, I would suggest otherwise.
Many college students opt for casual hook ups instead of relationships to avoid adding stress to their already stressful lives. But it turns out that choosing a friend-with-benefits over a significant other isn’t doing you or your partner any favors. The study suggests that there’s a direct correlation between casual sex and poor mental health in young adults. Sara Sandberg-Thoma, a researcher on the study, said that the results “[provide] evidence that poor mental health can lead to casual sex, but also that casual sex leads to additional declines in mental health.” Having casual sex to feel better can actually make a person feel worse.
This means that whether a sunless Binghamton winter has you experiencing seasonal depression or your body image is on shaky ground, relying on casual hook ups to improve your mood will not work. It will only cause more anxiety and deepen mental issues.
While these results may not hold true for everyone, it’s still better to be safe than sorry. Considering the negative effects, such as increased depression and thoughts of suicide, it’s so important that college students take casual sex more seriously. This is especially true for those already struggling with depressive symptoms due to factors unrelated to sex.
Another study at the University of Missouri noted that people who consistently had new partners after a breakup for over half a year showed “a lack of recovery and an inability to move on.” Though it may work for some, rebound sex isn’t always the healthiest way to get over an ex. If a casual hook up isn’t providing closure or helping a person move on and toward a new relationship, it isn’t helping at all.
Aside from potentially having negative effects on your mental health, there are other reasons to pass up sleeping with a friend or a stranger instead of a girlfriend or boyfriend. If it’s not an exclusive relationship, who knows how many other people either of you are having sex with? And like we all learned in high school, this is how STDs spread. If there’s a lack of communication, intentions can be misinterpreted and all of sudden, a booty call is causing more drama than it’s worth. Lastly, avoiding committed relationships now may make it harder to commit in the future.
It’s important to consider the pros and cons of casual sex as well as your mental health before you jump into a friends-with-benefits type of situation. It’s tempting to fill your entire college career with commitment-free sex, but sometimes the relationship route is the better choice.