So all those years of sneaking around and feeling a bit guilty afterwards and we were all wrong. Apparently it's OK to fool around. It could even be good for you.

All this according to a study that claims casual sex builds self-esteem and is healthy for our emotional well-being. That's if you're a "sociosexual" person, someone who has indulged in and enjoyed casual sex, as the study defines it.

The recent study conducted by researchers from New York University and Cornell appears to turn the existing notion that casual sex leaves participants with low self-esteem and depression upside down.

The team of researchers first defined casual sex as sexual activity outside the context of a romantic relationship. They then followed a group of 370 students who were asked to keep a weekly diary that documented any "extracurricular" activity and the effect they felt it had on their overall well-being.

The researchers reported, after a 12-week period, that the sociosexually unrestricted students (42 percent) reported a much higher sense of well-being after their casual sexual encounters when compared with those that hadn't engaged in sex within the previous nine months.

Those that had engaged in casual sex also reported lower stress and a feeling of greater overall emotional health. "Sociosexually unrestricted students typically reported higher well-being after having casual sex compared to not having casual sex; there were no such differences among restricted individuals. Few gender differences were found," the study noted.

"The effects of casual sex depend on the extent to which this behavior is congruent with one's general personality tendencies," the researchers added.

The lead researcher on the study, Zhana Vrangalov of Cornell University, included an important take-away from the study, explaining, "This study certainly seems to suggest that casual sex can be a good thing for people who are open to it, desire it, and have positive attitudes towards it."

The research was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

All this data runs counter to an earlier study conducted by Ohio State University researchers that interviewed some 10,000 students and found that teenagers with depressive symptoms were more likely to engage in casual sex and that each of those encounters increased the odds of suicidal thoughts in those interviewed by 18 percent.

Yet another study, conducted by Emory University,  concluded the effects of casual sex differ depending on the gender of the participants. Males generally find the experience more satisfying, researchers found, while women are twice as likely to orgasm when engaging in sex within a committed relationship.

In a related bit of news, OkCupid.com recently put together a list of Top Ten Casual Sex U.S. Cities. Apparently, folks are getting pretty busy in the Great Northwest as Portland and Seattle were No. 1 and No. 2 on the list. It's an interesting list with a few surprises as Pittsburgh (3), Miami (4), San Francisco (5), Dallas (6), San Bernadino (7), Denver (8), San Diego (9), and Houston (10) round out the list. 

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