The Effect of Early Sexual Activity on Mental Health – Summary

The purpose of this study was to review the peer-reviewed medical literature evaluating committed and non-committed heterosexual sexual relationships and their impact on mental health in adolescents.

We reviewed studies from 1966 to the present in peer-reviewed medical literature that evaluated mental health effects of adolescent heterosexual sexual relationships.

This study included 28 articles meeting the inclusion criteria. This review showed a very consistent disadvantage of early sexual debut, adolescent sex, hookups, and casual sex compared to committed unmarried and married relationships. Specific reported measures which worsened with adolescent sex included: depressive symptoms, depression, suicidal ideation, aggressive behavior, psychological distress, anxiety, stress, loneliness, poor wellbeing, regret and guilt. Regarding the relationship itself, there was reduced general and sexual satisfaction. Further, adolescent sex was associated with increased negative social behavior including: substance use and risky sexual behavior as well as in later adolescence a risk for physical and sexual abuse, drug use and antisocial behavior. In contrast, waiting until sex was initiated until there was at least some element of commitment, or until marriage, was associated with better: communication, relationship satisfaction as well as relationship stability, higher sexual satisfaction and a more positive view of sexuality.

This review suggests that sexual debut, adolescent sex, hookups and casual sex are associated with a number of negative effects on their relationships, general wellbeing and lifestyle behavior compared to unmarried or married committed sex.

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