How feeling good about your lover might be bad for your sexual health

February 15, 2016 by Blake Eligh, University of Toronto
How feeling good about your lover might be bad for your sexual health

A new study from U of T Mississauga psychology researcher John Sakaluk has found that the better you are bonded to your partner, the less likely you are to practice safe sex with them.

The three-part study surveyed heterosexual subjects online and in a lab setting, and asked participants to recall times when they held secure, anxious or avoidant about another person. Once the mental mood was set, Sakaluk and co-researcher Omri Gillath asked participants a variety of questions to gauge feelings about use during sex.

According to Sakaluk, respondents who reported feeling more secure with their partner also reported that they were less likely to use a condom. The more ambivalent they felt about their partner, the more likely they were to practice safe sex.

"Sex doesn't happen in an emotional vacuum," Sakaluk adds. "It's happening between two people. Even in a one-night stand, people are pursuing some kind of psychological and physical connection. There are a lot of feelings involved. "

"We used experimental methods to manipulate people's feelings about how secure they felt in their relationships," he says. The team then measured how those feelings of attachment or closeness might affect attitudes towards condom use.

According to Sakaluk, setting the mental mood helps to ensure better accuracy in responses. "Much of the data we have on psychology and is assessed through self-report surveys," he says, adding that that self-reporting can provide inconclusive data. "There's often the assumption that when a person has a positive attitude toward something, it will mean they'll engage in that behaviour, but it isn't always true."

Sakaluk's research found that when participants expressed of security about a partner, they reported feeling that the other person was generally well-intentioned and trustworthy. These assumptions can have repercussions on attitudes towards sexual safety, he says.

"We see that they perceive sexual partners as less of a threat to their health, which results in more toward condom use," Sakaluk says. "If you feel generally good about other people's intentions, you'll be less likely to be concerned about unintended pregnancy or . It's irrational, but you feel like you can trust the other person and bad things aren't going to happen."

"Security is generally a good thing—we want secure attachments in relationships, so it's interesting to see that feelings of security seems to promote unsafe sex," he says.

Canadian stats show reported rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and infectious syphilis have been rising since the late 1990s, and this trend is expected to continue in Canada and other similarly developed countries such as the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.

"My research shows that we have to consider the emotional context and how people might feel about those relationships as a part of the decision-making process to use a condom," he says. "When it comes to gut feelings about , it has real medical health consequences."

"The Causal Effects of Relational Security and Insecurity on Condom Use Attitudes and Acquisition Behavior" was published in the February 2016 edition of the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Explore further: Gender equality linked with higher condom use in HIV positive young women in South Africa

More information: John Kitchener Sakaluk et al. The Causal Effects of Relational Security and Insecurity on Condom Use Attitudes and Acquisition Behavior, Archives of Sexual Behavior (2015). DOI: 10.1007/s10508-015-0618-x

Related Stories

Gender equality linked with higher condom use in HIV positive young women in South Africa

April 30, 2015
Young HIV positive women are more likely to practice safer sex if they have an equitable perception of gender roles, according to new research involving the University of Southampton.

Sex and satisfaction in long-term relationships

July 14, 2015
Can committed partners find sexual satisfaction and harmony despite differing levels of sexual desire?

Safe sex practices among African American women

January 31, 2013
Researchers have found that African American women exhibit a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections including HIV/Aids. But what motivates this group of women to have sex? And when are they more likely to use protection?

CDC offers guidelines for schools' sex education topics

January 18, 2016
The federal Centers for Disease Control has identified 16 topics which it says should be included in sex education classes offered to high school students in the U.S. Fewer than half of high schools and only a fifth of middle ...

Ireland advises condom use to stop Zika virus

February 3, 2016
Ireland on Wednesday urged men to wear a condom during sex for one month after returning from a country affected by the Zika virus, as Britain said returning travellers cannot donate blood for a month.

US urges condom use or abstinence to avoid Zika virus

February 5, 2016
US health authorities on Friday urged people to use condoms or refrain from sex if they live in or have traveled to areas where the Zika virus is circulating.

Recommended for you

Study shows how bias can influence people estimating the ages of other people

October 17, 2018
A trio of researchers from the University of New South Wales and Western Sydney University has discovered some of the factors involved when people make errors in estimating the ages of other people. In their paper published ...

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer

October 16, 2018
Infants are more likely to learn from on-screen instruction when paired with another infant as opposed to viewing the lesson alone, according to a new study.

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

Linguistic red flags from Facebook posts can predict future depression diagnoses

October 15, 2018
In any given year, depression affects more than 6 percent of the adult population in the United States—some 16 million people—but fewer than half receive the treatment they need. What if an algorithm could scan social ...

Early changes to synapse gene regulation may cause Alzheimer's disease

October 15, 2018
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, involving memory loss and a reduction in cognitive abilities. Patients with AD develop multiple abnormal protein structures in their brains that are thought to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.