Sexually Transmitted Depression - The New STD?

Submitted by frlarry on
I like the play on acronyms with this one. It's a report on a study of 13,000 teens just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. To summarize, the old wisdom that teens with depression self-medicated with alcohol, drugs and sex gets the causal link exactly backwards. According to "Sexually Transmitted Depression — The New STD?"
Although the depression followed by sex and drugs link seems to make sense, the study, which followed more than 13,000 middle and high school students for two years, found that depression did not predict risky sexual or drug-using ehavior. Instead, the study found that depression often followed the risky behavior. Denise Hallfors, the lead author of the study, told me that her research team found evidence that heavy drug and alcohol use significantly increased the likelihood of depression among boys. For girls, the findings are stunning: Even low levels of alcohol, drug or sexual experimentation increased the probability of depression for girls. Breaking down the results, Hallfors found that 25 percent of surveyed teens were complete abstainers, meaning they were virgins and used no substances, not even tobacco. Only 4 percent of these teens experienced depression.
To summarize the remainder in tabular form,
Low Level Drug Usage/Impact on Depression:
Boys Girls
No significant increase Double the depression level (8-10%)
Low Level Sex Usage/Impact on Depression:
Boys Girls
Triple the depression level (12%) Triple the depression level (12%)
Promiscuous Sex/Impact on Depression:
? 44% experienced depression
To examine the causal link in a bit more depth, the study found
Did depression ever come first? Boys and girls were no more likely to begin or increase their sexual and drug use behavior when they were depressed than when they were not. In fact, depressed girls who were also abstinent were much less likely to engage in risky behaviors during the second year of the study. However, if they were already "dabbling" with substance use, depressed girls were more likely to go on to very risky sexual behaviors.
The article discusses all of the obvious implications for public policy on promoting abstinence vs. "safe sex." Believe me, it's worth the read.


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