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Did You Know?

Sex and Stress

Sex can be an effective stress-reliever.

How do we know? Studies are giving us some important insights.

Scottish researchers asked a group of 24 women and 22 men to keep track of their sexual activity for two weeks, breaking it down into penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI), masturbation, and sex with a partner but without PVI. During this time, the participants’ blood pressure was monitored as they took part in stressful activities: public speaking and solving verbal arithmetic problems.

The results? Those who had PVI had lower blood pressure and better stress responses than people who had not had PVI or had not had sexual activity at all.

In another study, researchers from Princeton University looked at sex and anxiety levels in male rats. The rats were divided into three groups. One group met with sexually receptive female rats once during the two-week experiment. The second group met with sexually receptive females every day for two weeks. The third group met with females who were not sexually receptive.

Researchers measured the rats’ anxiety levels by having them eat in unfamiliar environments. Rats that took less time to eat were believed to feel less anxious.

Researchers discovered that sexually active rats were less anxious than the ones who had no sex at all. The sexually active rats also had neuron growth in the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with anxiety responses.

Of course, rats and humans are different. But the results of this study could have implications for future human research.