Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

For Asexuals, Gays, and Lesbians, Adolescent Romance Is Especially Depressing

What’s more depressing than being a hetero teen in love?

Romantic involvement during adolescence is depressing. It is depressing for males and even more depressing for females. It is depressing for those who become romantically involved for the first time and it is even depressing for adolescents who stay involved with the same partner. In terms of depression, drinking, and delinquencies, adolescents who do not become romantically involved are better off. That's what I wrote about in my previous post. (Full reference to the study is below.)

There was one other finding I did not mention because it was only reported in passing in the discussion section of the journal article, with no accompanying tables or statistics. But considering all the thoughtful comments contributed in response to the original post, plus the fact that my post on ASEXUALS from late 2009 has been one of the most popular of all of my posts, I've reconsidered.

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Some of the adolescents in the study said that they were not attracted to either sex, and some said that they were attracted to people of the same sex. Romance had the same implications for them as it did for adolescents attracted to the opposite sex - they became more depressed if they became romantically involved than if they did not. The difference was this: The effect was even greater for adolescents reporting no attraction to either sex or attraction to people of the same sex. Depression deepened even more for them if they became romantically involved.

The authors offered no possible explanations for why that might be. So if you have some ideas you are willing to share, please post them in the comments section.

[More details from the study, if you are interested: The authors did not report the number of adolescents who said they were not attracted to either sex. They also did not note the number who said they were attracted to people of the same sex. They did, however, report that 75 males and 137 females said that they were in a relationship with a partner of the same sex. (There were more than 8,000 adolescents in the study.) For the asexuals who became romantically involved, there was no report of how many became involved with a same-sex compared to an opposite-sex partner, nor whether that mattered to their experiences of depression. Frustrating, I know - that's why I skipped over the findings initially.]

I also wanted to mention a point that "Sy" made in an email to me after she read my post on asexuals. She asked me to note that there is a difference between people who identify as aromantic (they feel no romantic attraction to anyone) and those who identify as asexual, which has more to do with sexual attraction. So, belated thanks, Sy! (It took me 5 months to get to this - sorry for the delay. And to everyone else sending me links and suggestions: thank you. I always appreciate hearing from you and too often get behind. If I am slow in responding, please do not take that as a sign of my lack of interest. I'm always interested!)

One last note: AVEN is a great site for information on asexuality.


Joyner, K., & Udry, J. R. (2000). You don't bring me anything but down: Adolescent romance and depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 41, 369-391.

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a visiting professor at UCSB.


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