Sex and Stress
By: Beth McHugh 2006
Well, we all suspected that sex can reduce stress levels but now scientists in the UK have proven that the physical act of sex can reduce stress, bodily tension, and lower blood pressure.
In order to successfully prove that sex actually does diminish tension levels, researchers were required to select an activity which was known to cause stress for the majority of people and use that as a benchmark against which the effects of intercourse could be measured.
Human beings have many fears: spiders, snakes, heights, commitment. But polls repeatedly demonstrate that the greatest source of fear known to man (or woman) is public speaking. In fact, it actually rates higher than death. Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that the average person would rather die than make a speech in front of an audience!
But getting back to the effect of sex on stress, Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley in Scotland, used blood pressure readings to determine the level of stress an individual experienced after performing two activities which were known to create stress. One was pubic speaking, the other performing mental arithmetic functions before an audience.
Professor Brody studied almost 50 persons of both genders over a fortnight period in order to determine if regular sex had an effect on stress levels. What he found was quite interesting. Volunteers who had experienced penetrative intercourse were found to be the least tense of the group, and their blood pressure returned to normal quicker after they had gone through the stressful experience of public performance than their fellow participants.
Other forms of sexual contact which did not involve penetrative sex did not exhibit the same level of stress reduction, and volunteers who abstained from sex during the experimental period had the highest blood pressure response to public speaking of all participants. Personality differences, which could predispose for erroneous results, were eliminated prior to testing by ensuring that the experimental group was statistically similar in terms of personality factors.
Brody claims that the beneficial effects of penetrative intercourse comprise more than the immediate short term benefits and actually persist for at least a week. One of the reasons for the unexpected results between the groups is that during penetrative sex the hormone oxytocin is released which may act as a natural sedative. Oxytocin is not released during other forms of sexual activity. He concluded that classical heterosexual intercourse provided evolutionary benefits including a reduction in overall stress levels.
There are numerous stress reduction techniques available, some dubious, some very effective. Here is yet another one that has been scientifically proven to work!