Sex may keep stress at bay

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public speakingAlthough scientists aren’t yet testing the benefits of intercourse without orgasm, here’s a report on a study demonstrating that the benefits of sex come from intercourse, not orgasm…and that oxytocin may explain those gains. (See also article on anti-stress benefits of merely holding hands and hugging) Now scientists just need to connect the dots with the "Coolidge Effect," due to which intercourse with sexual satiation gradually leads to emotional distance.

HAVING sex before a stressful event such as public speaking could help relax you for up to a week. One international tennis star apparently liked to do it minutes before strolling on to court while a couple of Olympians both reportedly swore off the deed the night before competitions.

But British psychologists now say penetrative sex with a partner before a nerve-racking event could help keep stress at bay.

In a study published in New Scientist magazine, University of Paisley researchers compared the impact of different sexual activities on blood pressure when people later experienced acute stress.

Those who had penetrative sex were less stressed and their blood pressure returned to normal faster than those who had non-coital sex.

Those who abstained from sex had the highest blood-pressure response to stress.

For a fortnight, 24 women and 22 men kept diaries of how often they had intercourse, masturbated or had sexual activity excluding intercourse.

Afterwards, they underwent stress tests involving public speaking and verbal arithmetic.

Taking into account volunteers' individual neuroticism, anxiety, work stress and relationship satisfaction, they found differences in sexual behaviour best explained the range of stress responses.

Lead researcher Stuart Brody said the effects were not attributable simply to short-term relief through orgasm but lasted for at least a week.

The release of the hormone oxytocin between partners could be responsible for the calming effect, he suggested.

Professor Simon Crowe, head of neuropsychology at La Trobe University, said the findings were very exciting and important.

"The physiology of sex is very complicated and one we know surprisingly little about given how much it affects our behaviour," Prof Crowe said.

"But the different stress responses between penetrative sex and masturbation suggests the biology of one person affects another.

"It follows that the relationship between people should also make a difference and casual sex wouldn't have the same calming effect."

See also: Blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity.

See also: Sex 'cuts public speaking stress'

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