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14 December 2009
Study finds no damaging psychological impacts from casual sex
by George Atkinson

University of Minnesota researchers have found that young adults engaging in casual sexual encounters do not appear to be at increased risk for harmful psychological outcomes when compared to sexually active young adults in committed relationships.

The study surveyed a group of 1,311 sexually active young adults (average age 20) about their sexual behaviors and emotional well-being. From the group, 55 percent reported that their last sexual partner was an exclusive dating partner followed by 25 percent whose most recent partner was a fiancé, spouse, or life partner.

Much lower percentages reported that their last sexual partner was a close but not exclusive partner (12 percent) or a casual acquaintance (8 percent). Interestingly, around twice as many males as females reported that their last partner was casual.

The researchers say that while sexual encounters outside a committed romantic relationship are often portrayed as emotionally damaging for young people, the study found no differences in the psychological well-being of young adults who had a casual sexual partner.

But the researchers were quick to add that risks of unplanned pregnancies and STDs still remained. "While the findings from this study show that young adults engaging in casual sexual encounters do not appear to be at increased risk for harmful psychological outcomes, this should not minimize the legitimate threats to physical well-being associated with casual sexual relationships, and the need for such messages in sexuality education programs and other interventions with young adults," cautioned study author Marla E. Eisenberg.

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Source: University of Minnesota

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