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Depressed Teens More Likely to Have Risky Sex

Teens with depressive symptoms often shun condoms and birth control

WEDNESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Depressed middle and high school students are more likely than their non-depressed counterparts to engage in sexually risky behavior, according to a study in the July issue of Pediatrics.

Jocelyn A. Lehrer, Sc.D., of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues analyzed depression and sexual risk behavior among 4,152 sexually active middle and high school students involved in a national adolescent health study.

The researchers found boys and girls with elevated depression symptoms at the study's outset were significantly more likely to engage in one or more risky sexual behaviors during the following year than those without such symptoms.

Boys with high depression symptoms often failed to use a condom or other birth control and had often engaged in substance use during their last sexual encounter. Moderately depressed girls were more likely to have engaged in substance use during their last sexual encounter, although those with high depression symptoms at the outset did not demonstrate significantly more risky sexual behaviors.

There was a significant link between continuous depression and having had three or more sex partners, failing to use condoms or other birth control measures during the last sexual encounter and any sexually risky behavior.

"An association between depressive symptoms and sexual risk behavior risk among youths provides an additional reason for expansion of programs for mental health promotion…. Schools would be a natural setting for expanded, population-based efforts in mental health promotion, prevention, and care for adolescents," the authors conclude.

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