Sexually active teenage girls 'twice as likely' to become depressed
By Jonathan Petre and Jo Macfarlane
Last updated at 10:09 PM on 20th September 2008
Teenage girls who are sexually active are twice as likely to feel guilt or low-esteem which could lead to depression
Young girls who are sexually active are far more likely to suffer from depression than those who remain virgins, according to a controversial new study.
American academics found that teenage sex leaves many girls with feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.
Following a study of more than 14,000 adolescents aged between 14 and 17, researchers said that these feelings could be directly ascribed to sexual activity, rather than outside influences, such as family difficulties.
The findings, which will fuel the debate about sex education in schools, were hailed as 'groundbreaking' by British experts who promote abstinence.
But critics said that the research, which appears in the respected Journal of Health Economics, reflected American attitudes that did not necessarily apply in this country.
The 38-page study, which was conducted by two American academics, used data from the U.S. government-funded National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, based at the University of North Carolina.
It found that having sex apparently doubled the chances of girls becoming depressed, with 19 per cent of those who had sex exhibiting major symptoms of depression, compared with 9.2 per cent who had not had sex.
The study also found that the mental health of boys in the same age group did not depend on whether they were sexually active.
The research follows a separate study by the American Psychological Association last year which warned that the portrayal of young women as sex objects in parts of the media was harming young girls' mental and physical health.
Dr Trevor Stammers, a lecturer on sexual ethics and chairman of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said the new study confirmed that most girls 'retrospectively showed regret about early intercourse'.
He added: 'It also shows as closely as we have been able to show so far that there is a genuine link between increased risk of depression and adolescent females engaging in sex.
'My experience is that, for girls, depression, regret and shame are very common.'
But consultant psychologist Dr David Cowell said the findings were open to question.
He said: 'In general, happiness is governed by a number of factors, including stability, academic success and a strong family unit.
'But there may also be differences in cultural norms and British teenagers probably think differently from their American peers.'
He said the idea that only girls were concerned about their bodies and that boys did not feel such anxieties was 'just not true'.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1058804/Sexually-active-teenage-girls-twice-likely-depressed.html