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Sexually active teenagers are more likely to engage in higher-risk sexual activities if they also are experiencing symptoms of depression, researchers write in the journal Pediatrics, Reuters Health reports. A national study of more than 4,150 boys and girls showed that among boys, the greater the symptoms of depression, the more likely they were to report not using condoms or any type of birth control the last time they had sex. Risky sex among boys also was linked with drug and alcohol use. Girls with greater depression symptoms were also less likely to have used condoms or other birth control measures the last time they had sex and were also significantly more likely to have had multiple sex partners during the previous year.
The study data is particularly troubling, the researchers say, because as many as 20% of adolescents experience clinical depression. Some studies also have shown that gay and lesbian youths are at a higher risk of depression and other mental health ailments than their heterosexual peers. Researchers also note that half of all new sexually transmitted disease cases occur among adolescents and that HIV infection rates are rapidly rising among teens and young adults.
"The study findings underscore that it is important for parents to be familiar with signs of depression among adolescent boys and girls," researcher Jocelyn A. Lehrer of the University of California, San Francisco, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health. "In addition to providing strong and consistent emotional support to their teens, it is important for parents to encourage and actively support their teens in seeking mental health care when needed." (The Advocate)