Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Treatment helps sex stage a comeback after menopause

A satisfying sex life is an important contributor to older adults' quality of life, but the sexual pain that can come after menopause can rob women and their partners of that satisfaction. Treatment can help restore it, shows a global survey including some 1,000 middle-aged North American men and women, published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). Sexual pain at this stage in a woman's life is usually the result of the typical drying and thinning of tissues in and around the vagina after menopause, called vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA), coupled with a decrease in sexual activity. Vaginal lubricants and moisturizers, vaginal estrogen, and ospemifene, a recently approved oral drug that is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), can all be used to treat it. Known as Clarifying Vaginal Atrophy's Impact on Sex and Relationships (CLOSER), the survey was commissioned by Novo Nordisk, the maker of a vaginal estrogen treatment. It included postmenopausal women volunteers age 55 to 65 who had VVA and their male partners. This part of CLOSER looked at how treatment with vaginal estrogen affected their sex lives. Before treatment, a majority of these women (58%) said they had been avoiding intimacy because of the pain, and 68% said they had lost their desire because of it. An even higher percentage of the men (78%) thought their partner's vaginal discomfort caused them to avoid intimacy. About a third of the men and women had stopped having sex altogether. After treatment, a majority of women and men reported sex was less painful for them and their partner, and more than 40% of the women and men said sex was more satisfying. Twenty-nine percent of the women and 34% of the men said their sex life had improved. Treatment also had a positive impact on the women's self esteem. About a third felt more optimistic about the future of their sex life, and a similar number felt more connected to their partners. "There is no need for a woman's quality of life to decline because of VVA," said NAMS Executive Director Margery L.S. Gass, MD. Many women get relief with vaginal lubricants and moisturizers and regular sexual activity or the use of vaginal dilators. Vaginal estrogen, in the form of creams, tablets, or rings, is a common therapy and is appealing for women who cannot or choose not to take oral hormones, since absorption into the bloodstream is minimal. Women who have had breast or uterine cancer are encouraged to discuss the pros and cons of different treatments with their oncologist. The SERM offers an alternative for women who choose not to use any oral or vaginal hormone therapy.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Women Reject Sexually Promiscuous Peers When Making Female Friends

College-aged women judge promiscuous female peers – defined by bedding 20 sexual partners by their early 20s – more negatively than more chaste women and view them as unsuitable for friendship, finds a study by Cornell University developmental psychologists. Notably, participants’ preference for less sexually active women as friends remained even when they personally reported liberal attitudes about casual sex or a high number of lifetime lovers. Men’s views, on the other hand, were less uniform – favoring the sexually permissive potential friend, the non-permissive one or showing no preference for either when asked to rate them on 10 different friendship attributes. Men’s perceptions were also more dependent on their own promiscuity: Promiscuous men favored less sexually experienced men in just one measure – when they viewed other promiscuous men as a potential threat to steal their own girlfriend. The findings suggest that though cultural and societal attitudes about casual sex have loosened in recent decades, women still face a double standard that shames “slutty” women and celebrates “studly” men, said lead author Zhana Vrangalova, a Cornell graduate student in the field of human development. The study, titled “Birds of a Feather? Not When it Comes to Sexual Permissiveness” and published in the early online edition of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, reports that such social isolation may place promiscuous women at greater risk for poor psychological and physical health outcomes. Study: http://bit.ly/18Dm7C9 “For sexually permissive women, they are ostracized for being ‘easy,’ whereas men with a high number of sexual partners are viewed with a sense of accomplishment,” Vrangalova said. “What surprised us in this study is how unaccepting promiscuous women were of other promiscuous women when it came to friendships – these are the very people one would think they could turn to for support.” She added that prior research shows that men often view promiscuous women as unsuitable for long-term romantic relationships, leaving these women outside of many social circles. “The effect is that these women are really isolated,” Vrangalova said. She suggested future research to determine whom they could befriend – perhaps straight or gay men who would be accepting of their behaviors. For the study, 751 college students provided information about their past sexual experience and their views on casual sex. They read a near-identical vignette about a male or female peer, with the only difference being the character’s number of lifetime sexual partners (two or 20). Researchers asked them to rate the person on a range of friendship factors, including warmth, competence, morality, emotional stability and overall likability. Across all female participants, women – regardless of their own promiscuity – viewed sexually permissive women more negatively on nine of ten friendship attributes, judging them more favorably only on their outgoingness. Permissive men only identified two measures, mate guarding and dislike of sexuality, where they favored less sexually active men as friends, showing no preference or favoring the more promiscuous men on the eight other variables; even more sexually modest men preferred the non-permissive potential friend in only half of all variables. The authors posit that evolutionary concerns may be leading men and women to disapprove of their bed-hopping peers as friends. They may actually be seeking to guard their mates from a threat to their relationship, Vrangalova said. In the case of promiscuous women rejecting other women with a high number of sexual partners, Vrangalova suggested that they may be seeking to distance themselves from any stigma that is attached to being friends with such women. The authors report that the findings could aid parents, teachers, counselors, doctors and others who work with young people who may face social isolation due to their sexual activity.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Meeting online leads to happier, more enduring marriages

More than a third of marriages between 2005 and 2012 began online, according to new research at the University of Chicago, which also found that online couples have happier, longer marriages. Although the study did not determine why relationships that started online were more successful, the reasons may include the strong motivations of online daters, the availability of advance screening, and the sheer volume of opportunities online. "These data suggest that the Internet may be altering the dynamics and outcomes of marriage itself," said the study's lead author, John Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago. The results were published in the paper, "Marital Satisfaction and Breakups Differ Across Online and Offline Meeting Venues," in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of June 3 to 7. Meeting online has become an increasingly common way to find a partner, with opportunities arising through social networks, exchanges of email, instant messages, multi-player games and online communities. The research shows that couples who met online were more likely to have higher marital satisfaction and lower rates of marital breakups than relationships that began in face-to-face meetings. Marriage breakups were reported in about 6 percent of the people who met online, compared with 7.6 percent of the people who met offline. Marriages for people who met online reported a mean score of 5.64 on a satisfaction survey, compared with a score of 5.48 for people who met offline. The survey was based on questions about their happiness with their marriage and degree of affection, communication and love for each other. For the study, Cacioppo led a team that examined the results of a representative sample of 19,131 people who responded to a survey by Harris Interactive about their marriages and satisfaction. The study found a wide variety of venues, both online and offline, where people met. About 45 percent met through an online dating site. People who met online were more likely to be older (30 to 39 is the largest age group represented); employed and had a higher income. The group was diverse racially and ethnically. People who met offline found marriage partners at various venues including work, school, church, social gatherings, clubs and bars, and places of worship. Among the least successful marriages were those in which people met at bars, through blind dates and in virtual worlds (where individuals interact in online spaces via avatars), the researchers found. Relationships that start online may benefit from selectivity and the focused nature of online dating, the authors said. The differences in marital outcomes from online and offline meetings persisted after controlling for demographic differences, but "it is possible that individuals who met their spouse online may be different in personality, motivation to form a long-term marital relationship, or some other factor," said Cacioppo. Meeting online also may provide a larger pool of prospective marriage partners, along with advance screening in the case of dating services. And although deception often occurs online, studies suggest that people are relatively honest in online dating encounters; the lies tend to be minor misrepresentations of weight or height. "Marital outcomes are influenced by a variety of factors. Where one meets their spouse is only one contributing factor, and the effects of where one meets one's spouse are understandably quite small and do not hold for everyone," Cacioppo said. "The results of this study are nevertheless encouraging, given the paradigm shift in terms of how Americans are meeting their spouses."