Teen Depression Can Lead to Risky Sexual Behavior
> 7/10/2006 1:00:13 PM

Researchers from University of California, San Francisco, have linked depression in teens to increased levels of sexual risk taking, which puts this group at greatly increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. By interviewing a group of nearly 2,000 boys and 2,200 girls, from both middle and high schools, researchers found that "more than 9 percent of the boys and nearly 16 percent of the girls displayed symptoms reflecting a "high" level of depression during their initial interview." In a follow up interview a year researchers focused on sexual risk taking behaviors. Comparison of the data revealed that teens who were more depressed were more likely to engage in risky behaviors throughout the year.

The report, which appeared in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, highlighted a number of issues in the treatment of teen depression. As lead researcher Jocelyn Lehrer told HealthDay News:

"Youth who are both emotionally distressed and socially isolated may be more likely to seek or be successfully pressured into sexual activity, in the name of some kind of shared intimacy, or to maintain relationships that they value," she said.

"Youth who are depressed may also be less confident in their ability to engage in self-protective behaviors, such as refusing pressure to have sex, discussing condom use with their partner, using condoms, and refusing substance use," Lehrer said.

This information, which mainly serves to confirm previously held beliefs among many doctors, also points to a need for increased awareness about potentially dangerous behaviors among parents, teachers, caregivers and doctors who face depression. Especially in boys, researchers found that increased depression was linked to an increased likelihood that drugs and alcohol would be combined with sexual behaviors, creating opportunity for further dangerous situations.

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