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Posted February 21, Reviewed by Matt Huston.

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Casual sex gets a bad rep. Although most young people have at least one hookup under their belts, many fear this is detrimental to their psychological well-being. Scholars, health professionals, and the media alike have all expressed concerns that hooking up le to depressionanxietyor low self-esteem.

Many studies over the past decade have tried to answer this question, but the have been very mixed. There are now about 20 such studies and the are all over the place. Sometimes the hookup group has higher depression or lower self-esteem Very well casual sex the no-hookup group particularly among womenother times the hookup group has lower depression and higher self-esteem particularly among menand very often there are no differences between the two groups. It is likely that not all hookups have the same potential to harm or benefit well-being and not all people engaging in them are equally susceptible to that harmful or beneficial potential.

Instead, there are individual, interpersonal, and social factors that this relationship depends on. Enter motivation. Motivation is a powerful thing. What are right and wrong reasons? Right, or autonomousreasons are self-directed and reflective of our values.

Wrong, or nonautonomousreasons are about seeking rewards and avoiding punishments whether internal or external or complete lack of motivation. Decades of research have demonstrated that the motivation—well-being link holds true for pretty much any human behavior, from studying, to exercising, to helping. So I set out to examine this in a sample of undergraduates surveyed twice during the academic year. After statistically controlling for demographics, personality traits, prior casual and romantic sex, and well-being at the beginning of the academic year, I found that whether or not students hooked up during the course of the year was not related to their well-being at the end of the year.

However, whether they did it for nonautonomous motives was. Surprisingly, autonomous motivation was unrelated to well-being. Men and women were remarkably similar in the extent to which they hooked up for autonomous and nonautonomous reasons, and in the way their hookup motivations were related to well-being.

So next time you have a chance to have casual sex, think about why you're doing it. If it feels like you're doing it for the wrong reasons, stop.

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Your mental health may depend on it. Have a casual sex story to share with the world? That's what The Casual Sex Project is for. Follow me on Twitter DrZhana for daily updates on the latest in sex research. Vrangalova, Z. A longitudinal investigation of the role of motivation. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Zhana Vrangalova, Ph. Zhana Vrangalova Ph. Strictly Casual. New research shows that the reasons you do it make all the difference.

Sex Essential Re. References Vrangalova, Z. About the Author. Read Next. Back Psychology Today.

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