We’ve all heard that hooking up usually leads to only negative outcomes. New research, however, says otherwise. Hooking up can be psychologically good for you in certain situations, when it can alleviate depressive symptoms and loneliness.
Hooking up is defined here as any physical sexual interaction—at least kissing—with another person, where there are mutually no expectations of future interactions. It is very popular among young adults, especially college students.
Previous research has shown that especially for women, and sometimes for men, “psychological distress” predicts hooking up behavior. And that, despite the negativity associated with hooking up in the media, it has been found that “young adults report having more positive than negative emotional reactions after hooking up.” And even after a bad hook-up experience, people continue hooking up.
Jesse Owen, Frank D. Fincham, and Jon Moore of The Florida State University studied factors that could predict whether a person would hook up in the future. They had university students fill out two on-line surveys, the second being four months after the first. The surveys asked about their hook-up experiences in the last 12 months: how many times, types (i.e. kissing, touching, oral sex, etc.), and satisfaction. The surveys also assessed depressive symptoms, extent of feelings of loneliness, religiosity, and alcohol-use.
They found that the best predictors for hooking up in the future was if a person had engaged in hooking up previously, especially if those hook-ups were perceived as positive. Alcohol consumption predicted hooking up, more so in women than in men. And those that were feeling lonely were more likely to hook up.
Interestingly, those that showed depressive symptoms and loneliness at first, and then later had penetrative hook-ups (oral sex , vaginal sex, and/or, anal sex), later had less depressive symptoms and feelings of loneliness. However, those that were not depressed or lonely to begin with and who then engaged in hooking up, had the opposite happen to them: they had more depressive symptoms and feelings of loneliness later. Please note that this study looked only at short-term effects (over a 4-month period).
Hooking up sounds like a good idea specifically for those that are feeling a bit sad and lonely these days, the results suggest. Perhaps hooking up is a way for a person to feel good about himself/herself. It gives a person a chance to form an intimate connection, even if it is a short-lasting one.
What could be some reasons that hooking up had negative effects on those that were not initially feeling sad and lonely?
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