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Report: Teens who have had sex more likely to be depressed, attempt suicide

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A new report linking teenage sexual activity with depression and suicide goes against the carefree attitude about sex often portrayed in the entertainment industry.

The report by The Heritage Foundation finds that teens who have had sex are two to three times more likely to feel depressed than are virgins. Likewise, teens who have had sex are approximately three to eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those who have not had sex.

The report is based on data in the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health — a 1996 survey of approximately 6,500 teens. In The Heritage Foundation’s report, “teens” were those ages 14 to 17.

“We have to send the message to teens that having sex is not going to make you happier,” Lauren Noyes, director of research projects for The Heritage Foundation, told Baptist Press.

The popular message in the media, on television and in movies is that sex “should be a normal part” of teens’ lives and that if “[teens are] cool and they’re fun they’re going to be having sex,” Noyes said.

“We need to be telling teens that that is not true,” she said. “… Sex is not going to make you happier. In fact, you will most likely be more unhappy.”

The report’s definition of “depression” was not a clinical one. Instead, teens who responded on the survey as having felt depressed “a lot of the time” or “most of the time or all of the time” were considered “depressed.”

Specifically, the report found that:

— Teen girls who had had sex were three times more likely to report being depressed, while teen boys who have had sex were twice as likely to report being depressed.

Of girls who have had sex, 25.3 percent reported being depressed. Only 7.7 percent of girls who are virgins reported being depressed.

Of boys who have had sex, 8.3 percent reported being depressed, compared to 3.4 percent of boys who are virgins.

— Teen girls who had had sex were nearly three times more likely to have attempted suicide when compared to teen girls who had practiced abstinence. The ratio was much greater among boys who had had sex — they were eight times more likely to have attempted suicide compared to boys who are virgins.

Of girls, 14.3 percent of those who had had sex had attempted suicide, compared to 5.1 percent of virgins.

Of boys, the percentages were 6 percent for boys who had had sex but only seven-tenths of a percent for virgins.

The report points to the need for increased funding for teenage abstinence programs, Noyes said.

“[W]e need to be funding what is best for teenagers,” she said, adding that sex “is not safe for them psychologically or emotionally.”

Pointing to a poll in which two-thirds of teens who had had sex regretted not waiting longer, Noyes said the message needs to get out that “it’s really cool to be able to have the self-control, the self-awareness, the emotional security, to wait and to say no.”

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust