Teenagers who don't date are less depressed than their peers in romantic relationships


The big romance - and the ensuing heartache - is the stuff of many a teen movie and TV drama, but a new study suggests youngsters may be mentally and socially better off without a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Far from being unhappy, a new study published in the Journal of School Health found that adolescents who were not in a relationship had lower levels of depression than their peers who were romantically involved with someone. 

Single teenagers were also found to have good social skills. 

Researchers looked at the experiences of 594 students in the 10th grade - ages 15 to 16 - as well as the ratings they were given by their teacher. 

Students categorised as 'low' in the area of dating were found to have significantly higher teacher ratings of social skills and leadership compared to other students of the same age who dated more frequently. 

Teachers were also more likely to give them lower ratings when it came to levels of depression compared to the other groups.

Even when the students were asked to rate themselves, the self‐reported levels of depression in the 'low' group of students was significantly lower than for others, although there was no difference across the categories when it came to thoughts of suicide. 

The researchers said that the results of the study "refute the notion that non‐daters are maladjusted".

Based on the findings, they recommended that government interventions aimed at the promotion of health among students include "non-dating as one option of healthy development".

"In the end, school health educators, mental health professionals, and teachers should affirm social norms that support adolescents' individual freedom to decide whether to date or not, indicating that both are acceptable and healthy options," said lead author Brooke Douglas, of the University of Georgia.