Why Early Sex in Teens Leads to Depression and Increases Suicide Risk?


Everyone knows that sex is good for the health and well-being. Sex indeed has numerous positive effects to the human body and mind, and can be considered as miracle weapon against many diseases and conditions. However, to every rule there is a valid exception. Starting sexual life too early may trigger noticeable negative reactions in the teens, and may increase a chance of getting depressed in the teen years, or even later in life.

So, if you are trying to input into your kids’ sex education process and you are looking for the ways to put your adolescent children off having sex try this one: “It’ll stop you growing…” And there is scientific evidence that you are right. Scientists claim teenage romps can also spark depression and autoimmune system conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hardly treatable and very irritating disease. They suspect the problem arises because “the activity occurs when the nervous system is still developing”.

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Ohio State University Research

Ohio State University researchers studied the equivalent of adolescents in the hamsters and came up with their conclusions. They claim sex so young can be linked to “lasting effects on the body and mood” into adulthood. This is because the teen body interprets sex as a “stressor”, sending the immune system into overdrive and causing inflammations that are behind conditions such as IBS. That can delay the onset of puberty and affect growth because sufferers miss out on key nutrients.

John Morris, who conducted the study, said: “Having a sexual experience during this time point, early in life, is not without consequence. It could be affecting males’ susceptibility to symptoms of depression and could also expose males to some increase in potential inflammation in adulthood.”

Mr Morris’s team studied hamsters aged 40 days – early teens in human terms – and 80 days. Both the young ones and the older ones had sex during the experiment with on-heat females. A third group went without.

The animals were later subjected to a number of tests on anxiety levels.

Mr Morris said: “Both groups of sexually active hamsters showed an increase in anxiety-like behavior compared to the control group but the increase in a depressive-like response was specific to the adolescent sexually paired group.”

The sexually active animals had more of an inflammation-causing chemical called interleukin-1, used by the body to fight infections. They also had “less complex” nerve cells carrying messages from the brain to the rest of the body.

The experts called for further research into “what these brain differences mean”. Research assistant professor Zachary Weil said: “Sex is doing something physiological that these cells are interpreting and responding to.”

University of Minnesota Study

The Hamster study results were collaborated by results of other projects. Another study from University of Minnesota carefully confirmed that a sexual life started at the wrong age does in fact induce sadness, clinically known as depression. Girls who have lost their virginity at an early age present a higher risk of feeling depressed compared to their counterparts, as the researchers discovered. Still, the sufferance occurred only when the sexual encounter happened outside a romantic relationship, while the boys' mind was not affected in any way if they started their sexual activity early.

"I suspected that there might be negative effects of early sex for some groups. And that's what I found, but only under very specific circumstances." said co-author Ann M. Meier, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota.

These findings have relevance for the abstinence education promoted by the welfare reform act of 1996, which states that "sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." The results show a mixed situation, while the average age at which teenagers start their sexual life steadily lowered during the 1990s, now almost 50 % of American teens report that they already had their first sexual experience by the time they graduate from high school.

Heritage Foundation Study

A recent study by the Heritage Foundation found additional evidence of a positive causal relationship between early sexual intercourse and depressive symptoms. Although teen sexual activity has declined in recent years, the overall rate is still high. In 1997, approximately 48 percent of American teenagers of high-school age were or had been sexually active.

The study examined the linkage between teenage sexual activity and emotional health. The findings show that:

·         When compared to those, who are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active, are significantly less likely to be happy and more likely to feel depressed.
·         When compared to those, who are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly more likely to attempt suicide.

The data used in this analysis are taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, Wave II, 1996. This "Ad-Health" survey is a nationwide survey designed to examine the health-related behaviors of adolescents in middle school and high school. Its public-use database contains responses from approximately 6,500 adolescents, representative of teenagers across the nation. The survey is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and 17 other federal agencies.

Sexual activity and depression


  • The Ad-Health data reveal substantial differences in emotional health between those teens who are sexually active and those who are not.
  • A full quarter (25.3 percent) of teenage girls who are sexually active report that they are depressed all, most, or a lot of the time. By contrast, only 7.7 percent of teenage girls who are not sexually active report that they are depressed all, most, or a lot of the time. Thus, sexually active girls are more than three times more likely to be depressed than are girls who are not sexually active.

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·         Some 8.3 percent of teenage boys who are sexually active report that they are depressed all, most, or a lot of the time. By contrast, only 3.4 percent of teenage boys who are not sexually active are depressed all, most, or a lot of the time. Thus, boys who are sexually active are more than twice as likely to be depressed as are those who are not sexually active.

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Table below gives a complete breakout of these data. Note that a full 60.2 percent of sexually inactive girls report that they "rarely or never" feel depressed. For sexually active teen girls, the number is far lower: only 36.8 percent. Overall, for either gender, teens, who are not sexually active, are markedly happier than those who are active.

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The link between teen sexual activity and depression is supported by clinical experience. Doctor of adolescent medicine Meg Meeker writes, "Teenage sexual activity routinely leads to emotional turmoil and psychological distress…. [Sexual permissiveness leads] to empty relationships, to feelings of self-contempt and worthlessness. All, of course, precursors to depression."

Sexual Activity and Attempted Suicide

The Ad-Health survey also asks students whether they have attempted suicide during the past year.

A full 14.3 percent of girls who are sexually active report having attempted suicide. By contrast, only 5.1 percent of sexually inactive girls have attempted suicide. Thus, sexually active girls are nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide than are girls who are not sexually active.

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Among boys, 6.0 percent of those who are sexually active have attempted suicide. By contrast, only 0.7 percent of boys who are not sexually active have attempted suicide. Thus, sexually active teenage boys are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than are boys who are not sexually active.

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Social Factors

The differences in emotional health between sexually active and inactive teens are clear. However, it is possible that the differences in emotional well-being might be driven by social background factors rather than sexual activity per se. For example, if students of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to be sexually active, the greater frequency of depression among those teens might be caused by socioeconomic status rather than sexual activity.

To account for that possibility, additional analysis was performed in which race, gender, exact age, and family income were entered as control variables. This means that each teen was compared to other teens, who were identical in gender, age, race, and income.

The introduction of these control or background variables had virtually no effect on the correlations between sexual activity and depression and suicide. In simple terms, when teens were compared to other teens who were identical in gender, race, age and family income, those who were sexually active were significantly more likely to be depressed and to attempt suicide than were those who were not sexually active.

Teens Express Regrets over Sexual Activity

The significantly lower levels of happiness and higher levels of depression among sexually active teens suggest that sexual activity leads to a decrease in happiness and well-being among many, if not most, teenagers. This conclusion is corroborated by the fact that the majority of sexually active teens express reservations and concerns about their personal sexual activity.

For example, a recent poll by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy asked the question, "If you have had sexual intercourse, do you wish you had waited longer?" Among those teens who reported that they had engaged in intercourse, nearly two-thirds stated that they wished they had waited longer before becoming sexually active. By contrast, only one-third of sexually active teens asserted that their commencement of sexual activity was appropriate and that they did not wish they had waited until they were older. Thus, among sexually active teens, those who regretted early sexual activity outnumbered those without such concerns by nearly two to one.

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As you see, concerns and regrets about sexual activity are strongest among teenage girls. Almost three-quarters of sexually active teen girls admit they wish they had delayed sexual activity until they were older. Among sexually active teenage girls, those with regrets concerning their initial sexual activity outnumbered those without regrets by nearly three to one.

The dissatisfaction and regrets expressed by teenagers concerning their own sexual activity is striking. Overall, a majority of sexually active boys and nearly three-quarters of sexually active girls regard their own initial sexual experience unfavorably-as an event they wish they had avoided.

Conclusion

The analysis presented in this post clearly shows that sexual activity is directly connected to substantial problems among teens regarding emotional health. Teenagers of both genders who are sexually active are significantly less likely to be happy and more likely to be depressed than are teenagers who are not sexually active.

Teenagers of both genders who are sexually active are substantially more likely to attempt suicide than are teenagers who are not sexually active.

Until recently, society provided teenagers with classroom instruction in "safe sex" and "comprehensive sex education." In general, these curricula fail to provide a strong message to delay sexual activity, fail to deal adequately with the long-term emotional and moral aspects of sexuality, and fail to provide students with the skills needed to develop intimate loving marital relationships as adults.

So, the messages for educators and parents to deliver to the teens are:

  • Delaying sexual activity is essential to the healthy development.
  • Human sexual relationships are predominantly emotional and moral rather than physical in character.
  • That teen abstinence is an important step leading toward a loving marital relationship as an adult.



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