New Study: Promiscuity in Women Linked to Higher Risk of Substance Abuse

A new study has linked promiscuity in women to alcohol and drug abuse, and while researchers are fascinated with the implications of the new research the results aren’t really surprising us.

The new behavior study was published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior and tracked the number of the 1037 participants’ sexual partners.

Before we even get into the results of the study, it’s important to realize that having the test subjects report the number of their partners is a huge factor in the results – especially for women.

Society has shaped the norm that it is okay for men to have many sexual partners, but much less acceptable for women to have many partners. Because of this social norm it is very likely that the women in the study lied about the number of partners they truly had.

Either way, the results of the study still came out the way even we expected they would.

The more sexual partners a woman had, the more likely she was to also experience some sort of drug or alcohol abuse.

While the link was also found to be true in men, the numbers weren’t quite as dramatic as they were for female participants.

The New Zealand based study found that women who had more than two to three sexual partners while they were between the ages of 18 and 20 were almost 10 times more likely to have some sort of drug problem (marijuana being the most common) than the participants who reported having only one or no sexual partners during that time.

For those women who had two or three partners while they were between the ages of 21 and 25, their likelihood to develop some sort of substance abuse increased by a factor of 7.

The trend only continued the older the women got, and by the time they were 32 if they reported having two or three partners the risk of substance abuse was multiplied by 18.

Now here is the explanation provided by researchers that we don’t find very shocking.

The first explanation was how impulsive the test subjects were. Women who are very impulsive would obviously tend to have more sexual partners and at the same time be more willing to try new drugs, especially in a social setting.

“[P]eople who are impulsive may be more likely to engage in both activities and consequently [be] more likely to become substance dependent,” the authors of the study explained.

Howard Shaffer, the director of the division on addiction at the Cambridge Health Alliannce, further explained that impulsive people are willing to take more risks.

“Having sexual partners is risky and using drugs is risky,” he said. “It might be that people who take one kind of risk also are willing to take the other. That the effect is stronger for women than men tends to support my interpretation because multiple sex partner is more taboo for women than men.”

In other words, it’s not quite as daring for a man to have a lot of sexual partners as it for a women – who is often instructed by society that she should remain a virgin until she is married.

Now here’s the part that may not have been explored enough if you ask us. The simple fact that women are very emotional people, which means intimacy is still an emotional experience for women while for men it may just be an act of pleasure.

Most women who have multiple partners may be experiencing a deeper psychological reason for wanting the affection or sexual attention of a man that may also result in a drug or alcohol abuse.

Sandy Ramrakha of the University of Otago in New Zealand led the study however, and did point out the fact that perhaps it was the short term partners themselves that caused the subject to abuse alcohol or drugs – which would at least address the fact that there is an emotional aspect in sex for women that may not be as prevalent in men.

“[This] may be due to the impersonal nature of such relationships,” she said. “Or it might be that multiple failed relationships create anxiety about initiating new relationships. Self ‘medication’ with substances may be one way of dealing with this interpersonal anxiety.”

This theory goes back to the women who is seeking a monogamous relationship but has failed to establish one with her sexual partners and may have a drink or a smoke in order to deal with the emotional pain of the failed relationships.

Researchers are hoping that the new study will help people find more innovative ways of protecting both men and women from falling into substance abuse because of their promiscuous nature.

What do you make of this study?


Back to top