The study revealed that “a quarter of teen girls who said they were sexually active also said they had been depressed ‘a lot of the time’ or ‘most of the time.’” In contrast, most who refrained from sexual activity were “never” or “rarely” depressed. Researchers concluded that “sexually active teens are far more likely to be depressed … than those who hold off until marriage” (WorldNetDaily.com).
Three million of the 19 million Americans afflicted by mental depression are teenagers. Commenting on the study, Dr. Meg Meeker, a physician for adolescents, tells us that “this is no surprise because teens are targets of a loose culture promoting promiscuity and excess.” Dr. Meeker goes on to declare that “when you look at sexual activity and teens and you add up the losses they endure, they have lost their virginity, they have lost their self-respect, they have the loss of a sense of control over their body, they have a sense of shame” (Christian Broadcasting Network, emphasis added).
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy asked sexually active teens if they regretted early sexual activity. Results showed that three-quarters of girls wished they had delayed sex and a majority of boys and girls regarded their first sexual experience as something they would have preferred to avoid. Regret, dissatisfaction and guilt, together with the losses previously mentioned, leave teens vulnerable to serious mental depression.
But what does depression among our young sometimes lead them to do? The answer is heartbreaking because prolonged mental depression can easily lead to suicide. “Just in the past decade the rate of teenage suicide has risen 200 percent” (Christian Broadcasting Network).
Researchers also found that 14 percent of girls who had had sexual intercourse had attempted suicide—almost triple the percentage of sexually inactive girls. Among boys, the differences were even greater, with 6 percent of sexually active boys having attempted suicide compared to only 1 percent of sexually inactive boys. This kind of link is too profound to ignore.
These severe societal problems, too often afflicting our youth, are compounded by the fact that on average 8,000 American teens are infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) every day. This sad state of affairs has repeated itself in the United Kingdom. The health correspondent of the Daily Mail recently reported that “Britain is on the brink of a public health crisis brought about by the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.” This is particularly true among young women.
The British Parliament Health Selective Committee warned that “with the fertility of an entire generation under threat, desperate measures are needed to deter children from having sex without any idea of the consequences.” The British government now believes that young people—teenagers and even younger children —need help in resisting peer pressure (not to mention that from the media) to indulge in early sexual activity.
This is an understatement. Encouraging self-control is only one solution to consider, but parents, teachers and public figures desperately need to set our youth a better example in self-respect and personal discipline. Instead, too often many of today’s celebrities let our young people down. Parents also bear much guilt in this critical area. Too many parents, perhaps partially as a result of their own flawed upbringing, have very ambivalent attitudes towards sex.
Knowledge of the dangers is not enough to resist sexual temptations. For guidance on this subject, be sure to read the two feature articles in this issue, one on the epidemic of teen sex beginning on page 16 and the other about virginity on page 30. (Sources: WorldNetDaily.com, Christian Broadcasting Network, USA Today, Daily Mail [London].)