Ohio State University has released research claiming that teenagers who have sex may be at a greater risk of depression and weaker brain development. Maybe.
The problem is the closest test subject researchers could find to a typical teen is a 40-day-old hamster, according to LiveScience.com.
When placed in water, the animals that had sex at 40 days were more likely to stop swimming vigorously, a symptom of depression, than the other three groups. All of the sexually active hamsters showed higher levels of anxiety, measured by willingness to explore a maze, than the virgin hamsters.
The group that had sex in adolescence also showed less complexity in the brain’s dendrites, the branching extensions of neurons that receive messages from other nerve cells.
“We used the opportunity to have sex, which naturally increases testosterone levels, to see whether these experiences during early life would have long-term consequence,” co-author Zachary Weil, a research assistant professor of neuroscience at Ohio State, told LiveScience.
“There is previous evidence that the age of first sexual experiences correlates with mental health issues in humans,” Weil said. “But with all human research, there are a number of other variables involved, such as parental supervision and socioeconomic status, that may be involved with both the age of first experience and depression.”
Study researcher Randy Nelson, neuroscience professor and chair at Ohio State, cautioned people not to use the study to promote teen abstinence, because the test subjects were hamsters.