Tuesday, July 27, 2010

63 percent of women report sexual problems with orgasm proving biggest issue in teens and 20s

Almost two-thirds of females attending a general urology practice reported that they suffered from sexual dysfunction, according to a paper in the August issue of BJUI.

Dysfunction rose with age in all categories except orgasm, with more than half of women aged from 18 to 30 reporting orgasm problems, significantly higher than women aged 31 to 54.

Researchers asked 587 women aged from 18 to 95, who attended a urology clinic in New Jersey, about six key areas of female sexual dysfunction (FSD): lack of desire, arousal issues, lack of lubrication, problems achieving orgasm, lack of satisfaction and pain during intercourse.

"We found that 63% of the women suffered from FSD and that there were significant links between FSD and age, menopausal status and use of selective antidepressants" says co-author Dr Debra Fromer, head of the Center for Bladder, Prostate and Pelvic Floor Health at Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey.

Twelve per cent of the women who took part in the study were aged 18-30, 27% were 31-45, 25% were 46-54, 24% were 55-70 and 12% were 70 plus. They attended a typical American metropolitan urology practice caring for conditions such as urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections, pelvic floor problems and kidney stones.

Key findings of the survey included:

The most sexually active age groups were 31-45 year-olds (87%), 18-30 year-olds (85%) and 46-54 year-olds (74%). It then fell sharply in 55-70 year-olds (45%) and in women who were over 70 (15%).
The top overall problem was lack of desire (47%), followed by orgasm problems (45%), arousal issues (40%), lack of satisfaction (39%), lack of lubrication (37%) and pain (36%).
Five of the six categories increased as the women got older: desire from 36 to 96%, arousal from 27 to 54%, lubrication from 26 to 45%, satisfaction from 28 to 88% and pain from 10 to 56%.
The only category that bucked the trend was orgasm, with problems higher in the 18-30 age group (54%) than in the 31-45 (43%) and 46-54 (48%) age groups. It then rose to 66% at 55-70 and 87% when women were over 70.
The top three problems by age group were:

18-30: orgasm (54%), desire (36%) and satisfaction (28%)
31-45: desire (48%), orgasm (43%) and satisfaction (40%)
46-54: desire (65%), satisfaction (53%) and orgasm (48%)
55-70: desire (77%), orgasm (66%), satisfaction (65%)
Over 70: desire (96%), satisfaction (88%) and orgasm (87%).
"FSD can have a major effect on women's quality of life" says Dr Fromer. "Self-esteem, sense of wholeness and relationships can be seriously and adversely affected, exacting a heavy emotional toll.

"Researchers have found significant associations between major categories of sexual dysfunction, reduced physical and emotional satisfaction and general well-being.

"That is why it is so important to ensure that problems are identified and tackled wherever possible. For example a number of hormone and other drug treatments have been shown to benefit women with FSD."

Known risk factors for FSD include age, a history of sexual abuse or sexually transmitted infections, depression, lower socioeconomic status, lifestyle, overall physical health and sexual experience.

"Interestingly, our study found very similar levels of dysfunction to an age-matched Turkish study" adds Dr Fromer. "This suggests a biological cause for FSD rather than societal or cultural factors, although they make some contribution to certain psychological aspects of the disorder."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Predicting Relationship Breakups With a Word-Association Task

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Here's a way to tell a romantic relationship is going to fall apart: find out what people really think about their partners. The researchers in a new study used a so-called implicit task, which shows how people automatically respond to words – in this case, whether they find it easier to link words referring to their partner to words with pleasant or unpleasant meanings.

Most research on relationship success has focused on how the people in the relationship feel about each other. And this is usually done by the obvious route: asking them. "But the difficulty with that is, that assumes that they know themselves how happy they are, and that's not always the case," says Ronald D. Rogge, of the University of Rochester. "To make things worse, a lot of people don't want to tell you if they're starting to feel less happy in their relationship." So he and his colleagues Soonhee Lee and Harry T. Reis turned to a technique often used to assess racism and bias, other feelings people have trouble admitting to themselves and to researchers.

The 222 volunteers in their study were all involved in a romantic relationship. Each volunteer supplied the partner's first name and two other words that related to the partner, like a pet name or a distinctive characteristic. Then they watched a monitor as three types of words were presented one at a time – good words (like peace, vacation, or sharing), bad words (such as death, tragedy, and criticizing), and partner-related words (names or traits). There were two different kinds of tests: one where the volunteer was supposed to press the space bar whenever they saw either good words or partner-related words, and one where the combination was bad words and partner words. The idea is to get at people's automatic reactions to the words – if they have generally good associations with their partners, they should be able to do the first task more easily than the second.

The researchers found that volunteers who found it easy to associate their partner with bad things and difficult to associate the partner with good things were more likely to separate over the next year. The researchers also asked volunteers to report on the strength of their relationships at the start of the study – and found that the new test did a much better job of predicting breakup. "It really is giving us a unique glimpse into how people were feeling about their partners – giving us information that they were unable or unwilling to report," says Rogge. The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Partner's Self-Revelation Affects Men and Women Differently in Romance

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Having a partner reveal his true self is much more important to women in romantic relationships than it is for men in dating the opposite sex, a newly published University of Florida study finds.

A woman is likely to report greater happiness when the man in her life presents himself as he really is rather than engage in "false" behaviors to try to please her, said Gregory Webster, a UF psychology professor and one of the study's researchers. For men, female authenticity had little bearing on their satisfaction, he said.

"We're not entirely sure why there are gender differences other than there is a tendency for women to base more of how they're doing in a relationship on how happy their partner is," Webster said. "Since women are frequently the ones 'in charge' of intimacy in the relationship, when men strive for openness and honesty the women's job of regulating intimacy is made easier."

While other studies have examined the effects of self-honesty on individual well-being, there has been little research on how it influences couples' satisfaction, he said.

"In the past, research on authenticity has focused on how being our authentic 'true-selves' is important for our own happiness and well-being," said Amy Canevello, a psychologist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. "This paper is important because it suggests that the benefits of authenticity actually reach further, affecting the experiences and well-being of those close to us."

The study, which is published in the June issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, involved 62 heterosexual couples who had been in an exclusive relationship for at least three months, with most having dated an average of nearly 18 months. They were asked a series of questions about self-disclosure and how their partner's authenticity affected the quality of their relationship and personal well-being.

Authentic behavior is acting according to one's values, preferences and needs rather than engaging in "false" behaviors to please others, get rewards or avoid punishments, Webster said. It means striving for openness and sincerity in one's intimate relationships by allowing those close to you to see "the real you," he said.

The higher participants' scores on the Authenticity Inventory measurement used in the study the more likely they were to behave in more intimate and less destructive ways in the relationship, which in turn meant having a more fulfilling relationship and greater personal well-being, he said.

How authentically women presented themselves did not affect men's happiness, although revealing their real selves tended to make women function better in the relationship, which in turn improved their partner's satisfaction, Webster said.

The age of the couples may have been a factor in why men and women reacted differently to partners not displaying their true selves, he said.

"The sample was of undergraduate college students who generally have less relationship experience than adults, and I think at that stage women are more mature in their relationship styles than men," he said. "It could be that women at that age pay more attention to a partner's authenticity than the other way around."

Because "true self" behaviors can influence one's satisfaction in a relationship, the study's findings have important consequences over the long term, Webster said.

"It would be interesting to do this research with adults and follow them over a series of years to see which couples divorce and which ones stay together," he said. "I would suspect that couples who are more authentic with each other are less likely to divorce, which has implications not only for the partners themselves but also if there are children involved."

To some extent, people who misrepresent themselves may be able to repress or suppress it for a short time, but the truth is bound to come out eventually, Webster said. After finding out their partner is someone different than they thought, some people may simply find it too costly to dissolve the relationship, having invested so much time in it, even if it doesn't meet their needs, he said.

"The take home message is 'to thine own self be true,'" he said. "If you're starting a romance where you're trying to be someone you're not in order to impress your partner, it might work for awhile, but it may ultimately hurt the relationship in the long run."

Combining Sex and Drugs Reduces Sexual Performance

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Sharing a bottle of red wine may seem like the best recipe for a romantic interlude. However, the evening may not turn out as planned according to a Concordia University study, which evaluated the effect of a wide range of drugs, including alcohol, on sexual behaviour. The findings, published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, definitively show that despite our preconceived notions, use of many recreational drugs can cause a loss in that lovin' feeling.

"We reviewed data from more than 100 different studies, including original data from our own studies, to systematically examine the effects of drugs on sexual performance," says Concordia psychology researcher, Dr. James Pfaus. "In addition, we evaluated the aphrodisiac claims of some of these pharmaceuticals. In this broad-based and wide-reaching study, it appears that drugs and sex don't mix well and there is no global love-potion."

Animal models provide the best information

Dr. Pfaus and his colleagues at Concordia's Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology have been studying the effects of aphrodisiacs on sexual behaviour for many years and narrowed their research to those studies involving animal models. "Only animal model studies can provide direct cause and effect data and physiological information," says Dr. Pfaus.

A few interesting results

They characterized the effect of two classes of drugs: stimulants, such as caffeine and cocaine, and depressants, such as morphine and alcohol. Although the majority of these drugs decreased sexual performance, there were a few interesting results including:

- Acute administration of cocaine facilitated penile erection in male rats

- Acute caffeine consumption facilitated sexual behaviour in both male and female rats

- Low levels of alcohol removed inhibitory tendencies

- Although a high level of alcohol disrupted sexual performance, this effect wore off with time.

"Sex and drugs may enhance one another under some circumstances, but it is clear from the data that drug use debilitates sexual responding in the majority of situations," says Dr. Pfaus.

Ticking biological clock increases women's libido, new research shows

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As more women wait until their 30s and 40s to have children, they are more willing to engage in a variety of sexual activities to capitalize on their remaining childbearing years, according to new research by psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin.

Such "reproduction expediting" includes one-night stands and adventurous bedroom behavior, the research shows.

In a paper published in the July edition of Personality and Individual Differences, psychology graduate students Judith Easton, Jaime Confer and Cari Goetz, and David Buss, professor of psychology, found that women age 27-45 have a heightened sex drive in response to their dwindling fertility.

In the study the researchers split 827 women into three groups: high fertility (ages18-26), low fertility (ages 27-45), and menopausal (ages 46 and up). The respondents answered an online questionnaire about their sexual attitudes and behavior.

Compared with the other groups, women with low fertility were more likely to experience:

- Frequent sexual fantasies
- Thoughts about sexual activities
- More intense sexual fantasies than their younger counterparts
- A more active sex life and willingness to have a one-night stand
- A willingness to have casual sex

Contrary to their predictions, the researchers found that when comparing low and high fertility women who were in relationships, the older, less fertile group did not fantasize more about someone other than their current romantic partners. Instead they fantasized equally about their significant others and other romantic partners.

According to a 2010 report from the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends, mothers of newborns in all race and ethnic groups are now older than their counterparts 20 years ago. Fourteen percent of births in 2008 were to women ages 35 and older, and 10 percent were to teens. With more women having children past their peak childbearing years, Easton says she believes the research will have implications on reproductive and sexual health issues, such as fertility, sexual dysfunction and marital development.

"Our findings suggest that women don't need to necessarily go 'baby crazy' in their 30s or go around thinking they're supposed to be having a 'sexual peak,'" Easton said. "Our results suggest there is nothing special about the 30s, but that instead these behaviors manifest in all women with declining fertility. It may be more difficult to conceive past the age of 35, but our research suggests women's psychology will continue to motivate them to try until menopause."

The study outlines for the first time the changes in women's reproductive behavior across the life cycle from an evolutionary standpoint. The researchers attribute these differences to ingrained psychological mechanisms rooted in each gender's adaptive responses over millennia of human evolution.