Sex in the News: Sex, Depression, and College Students
Earlier this year, a study presented at the American Psychological Association reported that the number of college students on psychiatric medicines – like those administered to people with depression and anxiety – have increased more 10% over the last decade. To support this finding, a similar study reported by NPR also showed that roughly one out of every four or five students that visit a university health center for an unrelated illness are found to be depressed. These findings indicate that a large number of college students, possibly your friends and classmates, could be suffering from this emotional disease. And while this may be both startling and upsetting, another finding shows that it can also negatively affect other areas, like sexual relationships, as well.
A more recent study published in the Journal of Psychology, Health and Medicine, found that depression is closely linked to risky sexual behavior among teen girls. Dr. Puja Seth and colleagues at Emory University found that depressed girls were “less likely to ask a partner to use a condom, were much more afraid to talk about condoms with a partner, had more sexual partners and were more likely to have intercourse while high on drugs or alcohol” (Kathryn Stamoulis, Depressed Teens Have Riskier Sex.”)
Experts attribute this finding to psychomotor retardation, one of the many symptoms of depression. This means that normal, everyday activities may be challenging or exhausting to those suffering from depression or anxiety. Moreover, it may seem like a great amount of effort for a depressed girl to talk to her partner about protection. Another possible explanation for the finding is lowered self-esteem, another symptom of the emotional disease. A teen girl may not think that her health is worth the effort or may worry that her partner will leave her because of the request.
Regardless of the possible reasons for the connection between depression and risky sexual behavior, it is important to understand the warning signs of depression. These include, although are not limited to, consistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, frequent crying, loss of interest in activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, feelings of guilt, fatigue, lack of motivation, or thoughts of death or suicide. It is also important for all women to take responsibility for their sexual health either through taking contraceptives and/or wearing protection. Depression and sexual diseases are no laughing matters and it is vital that we take care of our friends, classmates, and ourselves.