An online survey of 376 people, mostly in their mid-20s, revealed at least half the respondents had some experience of a relationship that could be described as “friends with benefits.”
Both said they had known their partner an average of four years, but those in friends with benefits relationships were more likely to use condoms during oral and vaginal sex compared to those in traditional partnerships.
But there is a downside for these carefree couples, according to Live Science.
The study found that those in friends with benefits relationships were less sexually satisfied, less likely to communicate about sex and less likely to discuss sexual desires and needs, the Daily Mail reported.
However, despite the more frequent condom use, friends with benefits relationships aren’t necessarily safer because they are likely to have more sex partners and don’t use condoms every time.
Only 36 percent of those in casual relationships said that they would be faithful to their partner compared with 93 percent of those in more solid partnerships.
“A larger numbers of partners, combined with far-from-perfect condom use and limited discussion about sexual health matters suggest that friends with benefits relationships carry some inherent degree of risk,” researchers wrote.
They also argued that sex education should reflect the rising culture of friends with benefits relationships to “address the unique health implications of involvement in these relationships.”
Those in traditional relationships may be less likely to use condoms because they are more committed to their partner, they said.
They come to trust that their partner will not have sex with other people, thus posing less of a health risk, study researcher Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist at Harvard University, said.
Switching to other methods of birth control, such as oral contraceptives, may be another reason condom use declines in traditional relationships.
But this switch still has to accompany an increase in trust, as these medications do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, Lehmiller added.
The study is published in the Journal of Sex Research.