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Casual Sex Doesn't Cause Emotional Damage: Study

No additional risk seen for those in uncommitted relationships

FRIDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults who have casual sex are no more likely than those in committed relationships to experience psychological problems, new research has found.

In the study, University of Minnesota researchers analyzed the responses of 737 females and 574 males, mean age 20.5, who were asked about their sexual behaviors and emotional well-being. Among those who were sexually active, 55 percent said their last sexual partner was an exclusive dating partner. An additional 25 percent said they were engaged to, or a spouse or life partner of their last sexual partner. Another 12 percent said it was a close but not exclusive partner, and 8 percent said it was a casual acquaintance.

More than twice as many males as females said their last sexual partner was a casual acquaintance or a close but not exclusive partner, the study authors noted.

In this study to determine if sexual activity outside a committed relationship causes emotional damage to young people, the researchers found no differences in the mental well-being of participants who had a casual partner or a committed partner.

"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 compared to those in more committed relationships, 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," study author Marla E. Eisenberg, of the University of Minnesota Medical School, said in a university news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sexually transmitted diseases.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Minnesota, news release, Dec. 8, 2009

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