Can Having a One-Night Stand Make You Sad and Depressed?

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Amidst “generation hookup,” some of don’t really date anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. We’re in an age where relationships contain blurred lines, where language (texts, specifically) and actions are questionable. A phone call — instead of a text — from the person we like seems like an unreasonable request. Casual sex, for some, is the norm and actual (real) relationships a deviation from the norm, and in between the two lies the one-night stand. Where do we go from here?

Our generation has a tendency to hang out in groups, meet someone we like, and instead of asking for their number, hope that we see them around, maybe out at a bar, where we can then make our move. Interestingly, despite our non-committal nature, a Februrary 2013 study by the American Psychological Association found that 63% of college men and 83% of college women would prefer a traditional relationship to uncommitted sex. But still, we hook-up, while people who are in committed relationships have become more of the exception, rather than the rule.

One way we hook-up: the one-night stand. To clearly understand today’s progression of a one-night stand (hook-up culture) to an actual relationship, refer to the movie Knocked Up.

So, how many of us have have had one-night stands? Researcher Anne Campbell, a psychologist at Durham University in England, surveyed more than 3,300 individuals, most of whom were between the ages of 17 and 40. Campbell’s results were published in the journal Human Nature, finding that of the heterosexual respondents, more than half said that they’ve had a one-night stand, split evenly between men and women.

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So many have had a one-night stand, most probably after a night of great intoxication and sometimes plenty of regret, which can lead to more awkwardness the day after. In the morning, we’re unsure of how to behave because we don’t want to be rude. Unfortunately — sorry to be the bearer of bad news — this no-strings-attached approach and potentially uncomfortable situation could be causing harm to your psychological health.

In a study of nearly 4,000 college students who partook in casual sex, 18 to 25 years old, study coauthor Melina Bersamin Ph.D, of California State University, Sacramento reported that there was a 10% drop in life satisfaction, a 15% hike in depression, and a 17% jump in general anxiety. Bersamin notes that the demographic is a psychologically tender age, possibly affecting them more so than someone with a little more life experience. She also explains that frivolous sex may not be culprit: anxious, depressed, and overall unsatisfied people may just be more likely to engage in casual sex, possibly skewing the data.

No matter your age, though, sexual regret is still common, as mentioned, and if you have no intention to date the other person or do want to but end up getting rejected, a one-night stand can definitely bring sadness with it. We’ve all experienced the hurt and sadness of rejection.

Conversely, for those of you that really love casual sex, don’t be discouraged, there may be psychological benefits to that, as well. Perhaps all is not lost.

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