Friday, October 27, 2017

Regular marijuana use linked to more sex


The jury's still out on rock 'n' roll. But the link between sex and at least one drug, marijuana, has been confirmed.
A study by investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine indicates that, despite concerns among physicians and scientists that frequent marijuana use may impair sexual desire or performance, the opposite appears more likely to be the case.
The findings, to be published online Oct. 27 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, are based on an analysis of more than 50,000 Americans ages 25-45. And they're unambiguous.
"Frequent marijuana use doesn't seem to impair sexual motivation or performance. If anything, it's associated with increased coital frequency," said the study's senior author, Michael Eisenberg, MD, assistant professor of urology. The lead author is Andrew Sun, MD, a resident in urology.

Hint of a causal connection

The study does not establish a causal connection between marijuana use and sexual activity, Eisenberg noted. But the results hint at it, he added. "The overall trend we saw applied to people of both sexes and all races, ages, education levels, income groups and religions, every health status, whether they were married or single and whether or not they had kids."
The study is the first to examine the relationship between marijuana use and frequency of sexual intercourse at the population level in the United States.
"Marijuana use is very common, but its large-scale use and association with sexual frequency hasn't been studied much in a scientific way," Eisenberg said.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 20 million adult Americans are current marijuana users. With the drug's legalization for medical or recreational use in 29 states, that number is climbing. But despite marijuana's growing status as a recreational drug, its status as a procreational drug remains ambiguous: On one hand, there are reports of erectile dysfunction in heavy users, and rigorous studies have found reduced sperm counts in men who smoke it; on the other hand, experiments conducted in animal models and humans indicate that marijuana stimulates activity in brain regions involved in sexual arousal and activity.

Looking at survey responses

To arrive at an accurate determination of marijuana's effect on intercourse frequency, Eisenberg and Sun turned to the National Survey of Family Growth, sponsored by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey, which provides data pertaining to family structures, sexual practices and childbearing, reflects the overall demographic features of the U.S. population. Originally conducted at regular intervals, the survey is now carried out on an annual basis. It explicitly queries respondents on how many times they've had intercourse with a member of the opposite sex in the past four weeks, and how frequently they've smoked marijuana over the past 12 months.
The investigators compiled answers to those questions for all years since 2002, when the survey first began collecting data on men as well as women. They included data from respondents ages 25-45 and excluded a small percentage (fewer than 3 percent) of respondents who had failed to answer one or more relevant questions.
In all, Eisenberg and Sun obtained data on 28,176 women averaging 29.9 years of age and 22,943 men whose average age was 29.5. They assessed these individuals' self-reported patterns of marijuana use over the previous year and their self-reported frequency of heterosexual intercourse over the previous four weeks.
Some 24.5 percent of men and 14.5 percent of women in the analysis reported having used marijuana, and there was a positive association between the frequency of marijuana use and the frequency of sexual intercourse. This relationship applied to both sexes: Women denying marijuana use in the past year, for example, had sex on average 6.0 times during the previous four weeks, whereas that number was 7.1 for daily pot users. Among men, the corresponding figure was 5.6 for nonusers and 6.9 for daily users.
In other words, pot users are having about 20 percent more sex than pot abstainers, Eisenberg noted.

Positive association is universal

Moreover, Eisenberg said, the positive association between marijuana use and coital frequency was independent of demographic, health, marital or parental status.
In addition, the trend remained even after accounting for subjects' use of other drugs, such as cocaine or alcohol. This, Eisenberg said, suggests that marijuana's positive correlation with sexual activity doesn't merely reflect some general tendency of less-inhibited types, who may be more inclined to use drugs, to also be more likely to have sex. In addition, coital frequency rose steadily with increasing marijuana use, a dose-dependent relationship supporting a possible active role for marijuana in fostering sexual activity.
Nevertheless, Eisenberg cautioned, the study shouldn't be misinterpreted as having proven a causal link. "It doesn't say if you smoke more marijuana, you'll have more sex," he said.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Online Dating Is Changing the Nature of Society


Dating websites have changed the way couples meet. Now evidence is emerging that this change is influencing levels of interracial marriage and even the stability of marriage itself.

Match.com went live in 1995. A new wave of dating websites, such as OKCupid, emerged in the early 2000s. And the 2012 arrival of Tinder changed dating even further. Today, more than one-third of marriages start online.

Clearly, these sites have had a huge impact on dating behavior. But now the first evidence is emerging that their effect is much more profound. 
The way people meet their partners has changed dramatically in recent years
For more than 50 years, researchers have studied the nature of the networks that link people to each other. These social networks turn out to have a peculiar property.

One obvious type of network links each node with its nearest neighbors, in a pattern like a chess board or chicken wire. Another obvious kind of network links nodes at random. But real social networks are not like either of these. Instead, people are strongly connected to a relatively small group of neighbors and loosely connected to much more distant people.

These loose connections turn out to be extremely important. “Those weak ties serve as bridges between our group of close friends and other clustered groups, allowing us to connect to the global community,” say Josue Ortega at the University of Essex in the U.K. and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria.

Loose ties have traditionally played a key role in meeting partners. While most people were unlikely to date one of their best friends, they were highly likely to date people who were linked with their group of friends; a friend of a friend, for example. In the language of network theory, dating partners were embedded in each other’s networks.

Indeed, this has long been reflected in surveys of the way people meet their partners: through mutual friends, in bars, at work, in educational institutions, at church, through their families, and so on.

Online dating has changed that. Today, online dating is the second most common way for heterosexual couples to meet. For homosexual couples, it is far and away the most popular.

That has significant implications. “People who meet online tend to be complete strangers,” say Ortega and Hergovich. And when people meet in this way, it sets up social links that were previously nonexistent.

The question that Ortega and Hergovich investigate is how this changes the racial diversity of society. “Understanding the evolution of interracial marriage is an important problem, for intermarriage is widely considered a measure of social distance in our societies,” they say.

The researchers start by simulating what happens when extra links are introduced into a social network. Their network consists of men and women from different races who are randomly distributed. In this model, everyone wants to marry a person of the opposite sex but can only marry someone with whom a connection exists. This leads to a society with a relatively low level of interracial marriage.

But if the researchers add random links between people from different ethnic groups, the level of interracial marriage changes dramatically. “Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small,” say Ortega and Hergovich.

And there is another surprising effect. The team measure the strength of marriages by measuring the average distance between partners before and after the introduction of online dating. “Our model also predicts that marriages created in a society with online dating tend to be stronger,” they say.

Next, the researchers compare the results of their models to the observed rates of interracial marriage in the U.S. This has been on the increase for some time, but the rates are still low, not least because interracial marriage was banned in some parts of the country until 1967.

But the rate of increase changed at about the time that online dating become popular. “It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly,” say the researchers.

The increase became steeper in the 2000s, when online dating became even more popular.  Then, in 2014, the proportion of interracial marriages jumped again. “It is interesting that this increase occurs shortly after the creation of Tinder, considered the most popular online dating app,” they say.
Tinder has some 50 million users and produces more than 12 million matches a day.

Of course, this data doesn’t prove that online dating caused the rise in interracial marriages. But it is consistent with the hypothesis that it does.

Meanwhile, research into the strength of marriage has found some evidence that married couples who meet online have lower rates of marital breakup than those who meet traditionally. That has the potential to significantly benefit society. And it’s exactly what Ortega and Hergovich’s model predicts.

Of course, there are other factors that could contribute to the increase in interracial marriage. One is that the trend is the result of a reduction in the percentage of Americans who are white. If marriages were random, this should increase the number of interracial marriages, but not by the observed amount. “The change in the population composition in the U.S. cannot explain the huge increase in intermarriage that we observe,” say Ortega and Hergovich.

That leaves online dating as the main driver of this change. And if that’s the case, the model implies that this change is ongoing.

That’s a profound revelation. These changes are set to continue, and to benefit society as result. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Why women become less sexually active as they age



 As women age, sexual activity typically declines. But that doesn't necessarily mean they are no longer interested in sex. The problem for many is physical. A new study demonstrates the impact on sexual activity of postmenopausal women as a result of vulvovaginal atrophy and lower urinary tract problems. The study results will be presented during The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, October 11-14.

In recent years the medical community adopted the terminology "genitourinary syndrome of menopause" (GSM) to more accurately refer to the collective vaginal and bladder problems that affect many women during menopause. In simpler terms, GSM includes symptoms of painful sex as a result of a thinning of the vaginal walls, along with bladder problems that can lead to urine leakage during sexual activity, as well as during other unpredictable times. As part of this new study, researchers assessed the impact of these symptoms on a woman's ability to be sexually active and enjoy the sexual experience.

More than 1,500 women completed a questionnaire regarding their sexual activity. While both vulvovaginal atrophy and bladder problems negatively impacted sexual enjoyment and frequency of activity, the fear of experiencing pain during sex was reported as a reason for avoiding or restricting activity more often (20%) than bladder problems, such as fear of wetting the bed or having to interrupt activity to go to the bathroom (9%).

"Our findings underscore the need to further expand the sexual history after a woman reports that she is not currently sexually active," says Dr. Amanda Clark, lead author of the study from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon.

"This study provides just one more reason why healthcare providers need to have an open and honest discussion with peri- and postmenopausal women so that appropriate treatments options can be evaluated," says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.

Sexual fluidity


Are people's sexual attractions likely to change as they age? That's the question at the core of an ongoing debate as to whether or not sexuality remains stable throughout a person's life. An upcoming presentation at The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia October 11-14, will review the latest research on the prevalence of same-sex sexuality and sexual fluidity and their implications for healthcare providers.

Sexual fluidity is not a new concept, but has recently gotten a lot more attention because of high-profile celebrities openly announcing their change in sexual status, making it somewhat fashionable to change sides. That doesn't mean women are intentionally changing their sexual orientation, but for various reasons, such change is often happening later in women's lives and may actually change back-and-forth multiple times during different life stages throughout a woman's lifetime.

"We see a lot on the topic of sexual fluidity in the media, but it seems as if little of this information has trickled down into clinical practice," says Dr. Lisa Diamond from the University of Utah, who will be discussing lesbian sexuality and fluidity and their implications on women's healthcare at the NAMS Annual Meeting. "Healthcare providers need to recognize this new reality and incorporate it into their approaches to caring for their female patients."

"Women should always be encouraged to have an open dialogue with their healthcare providers about a wide array of health concerns and also feel comfortable in discussing any lifestyle changes. This presentation should remind us that we need to ask questions and not assume a patient's sexual orientation when discussing their concerns," says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

US women report diverse preferences related to sexual pleasure


Faculty members from the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington and the school's Center for Sexual Health Promotion recently published a paper in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy focused on addressing gaps in scientific understanding of women's sexual pleasure. The study findings, from the research team's OMGYES Pleasure Report: Women and Touch, focused on orgasm and sexual pleasure as related to genital touch and stimulation. "There had been little known at the population level about detailed aspects of women's sexual pleasure and orgasm," said Debby Herbenick, lead author of the study and professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. "Most previous studies utilized clinical, college and convenience samples. We worked to change that with this research and provide data surveying a U.S. nationally representative probability sample of adult women."
Herbenick and her research team, including Brian Dodge, associate professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, conducted the OMGYES Sexual Pleasure Report: Women and Touch with a focus on discovering a greater understanding of women's sexual pleasure and orgasm.
"The study results challenge the mistaken, but common, notion that there are universal 'sex moves that work' for everyone," said Dodge. "On the other hand, the data also make clear that there are certain styles of touch that are more commonly preferred by women, emphasizing the value of studying sexual pleasure - and not just sexual problems."
The study found that the more than 1,000 women, ages 18 to 94, surveyed reported a diverse set of preferences for genital touch, location, pressure, shape and pattern. Further, 41 percent of women preferred just one specific style of touch, underscoring the value of couples having conversations about their preferences and desires.
This study provides the first U.S. nationally representative data on pathways to orgasm during intercourse, noting that nearly 75 percent of women reported that clitoral stimulation was either necessary for their intercourse-orgasms, or helped their orgasms feel better, while 18 percent noted that vaginal penetration alone was sufficient for orgasm.
Women's sexual health is one of several research areas focused on within the IU School of Public Health's Center for Sexual Health Promotion. The center, which is a collaborative of sexual health scholars from across the campuses of Indiana University and strategic partner academic institutions, also continually researches community based participatory research and sexual health, reproductive health, men's sexual health, health and well-being among sexual and gender minority communities, and global sexual health.
The IU School of Public Health-Bloomington is reimagining public health through a comprehensive approach that enhances and expands disease prevention and reshapes how parks, tourism, sports, leisure activities, physical activity and nutrition impact and enhance wellness. Unique in the nation, the school's multidisciplinary approach, history of community engagement and emerging strengths in epidemiology, biostatistics and environmental health bring new vigor and energy to the traditional concept of a school of public health.
OMGYES is a research company that partners with scientists to fill the gap in scientific and public understanding of sexual pleasure. It also operates a website, OMGYES.com, to get the study findings to the public in relatable and refreshingly frank videos. They're currently studying the ways sexual pleasure changes during menopause as well as during pregnancy and postpartum.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Couples weather bickering with a little help from their friends

                     

Every couple has conflict, and new research finds that having good friends and family members to turn to alleviates the stress of everyday conflict between partners. In fact, according to the study led by The University of Texas at Austin's Lisa Neff, social networks may help provide protection against health problems brought about by ordinary tension between spouses.
In a paper published this week in the online edition of Social Psychological and Personality Science, Neff and other researchers in UT Austin's Department of Human Development and Family Sciences found that "spouses who reported being more satisfied with the availability of friends and family, whom they knew they could connect with during times of marital conflict, experienced conflict as less physiologically stressful."
The paper is the first to look at the link between spouses' cortisol levels, which are an indicator of physiological stress, and marital conflicts occurring in the home. At a time when more couples in the U.S. are living in communities separate from where their families and friends reside, the research suggests there is a strong correlation between relationships like these outside of a marriage and people within the marriage experiencing lower risk factors for health problems such as weight gain, insomnia, depression and even heart disease.
"We found that having a satisfying social network buffers spouses from the harmful physiological effects of everyday marital conflicts," said Neff, an associate professor. "Maintaining a few good friends is important to weathering the storms of your marriage."
The research looked at 105 newlywed couples who kept daily records of marital conflict in their home environment and completed questionnaires about the number, quality and characteristics of their connections with friends and family. In addition, the couples participating in the study collected morning and evening saliva samples for cortisol testing every day for six days. Cortisol levels over the course of the day are a measure of the stress response.
The overall number of friends and family members that study participants reported having didn't appear to affect couples' ability to handle conflicts nearly as much as the quality of those outside relationships. Neff and her colleagues found that people who reported having even a few close friends or family members to talk to outside of their marriage experienced lower levels of stress when marital conflicts arose.
"Even everyday conflict takes a toll on people physiologically," Neff said. "But we found that the association between marital conflict and cortisol responses completely disappears when people are happy and satisfied with their available social network." 

How the shape and size of your face relates to your sexuality

                   


Men and women with shorter, wider faces tend to be more sexually motivated and to have a stronger sex drive than those with faces of other dimensions. These are the findings from a study led by Steven Arnocky of Nipissing University in Canada. The research investigates the role that facial features play in sexual relationships and mate selection and is published in Springer's journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
The study adds to a growing body of research that has previously shown that certain psychological and behavioral traits are associated with particular facial width-to-height ratios (known as FWHR). Square-faced men (who therefore have a high FWHR) tend to be perceived as more aggressive, more dominant, more unethical, and more attractive as short-term sexual partners than their thinner and longer-faced counterparts.
Researchers attributed differences in facial proportions to variations in testosterone levels during particular developmental periods, such as puberty. This hormone plays a role in forming adult sexual attitudes and desires.
In this paper, Arnocky and his colleagues report two separate studies conducted among students. In the first, 145 undergraduates who were in romantic relationships at the time completed questionnaires about their interpersonal behavior and sex drive. The researchers also used photographs of the participants to determine their facial width-to-height ratio. The second study involved 314 students and was an extended version of the first study, which included questions about participants' sexual orientation, the chances of them considering infidelity, and their sociosexual orientation. The latter is a measure of how comfortable participants are with the concept of casual sex that does not include love or commitment.
According to Arnocky, their findings suggest that FWHR can be used to predict a measure of sexuality in both sexes. Men and women with a high FWHR (therefore, square and wide faces) reported a greater sex drive than others.
"Together, these findings suggest that facial characteristics might convey important information about human sexual motivations" , says Arnocky.
It was also found that men with a larger FWHR not only have a higher sex drive than others, but also are more easy-going when it comes to casual sex and would consider being unfaithful to their partners.