Saturday, January 8, 2022

How Long Is Too Long for a Couple to Go Without Sex? ... and why those who have more may not be any happier.

“How often do you and your partner have sex?”

It’s a question that comes up often, albeit tentatively, exposing some of our deepest insecurities about our intimate relationships.

Few of us haven’t wondered at some point: How much sex should we be having? What if we’re having less sex than our friends? Is our relationship doomed if we aren’t having enough sex? And what is enough sex anyway?

These questions are inherently flawed, because how often we are having sex doesn't address whether or not that sex is good, bad, or dissatisfying. Nevertheless, the frequency with which we are sexually intimate can play a role in both our sexual and relationship satisfaction. So how often are most couples having sex? And what does that mean for our relationship quality and satisfaction?

The Most Common Response

Before addressing the different frequencies of sexual activity, and what that means for our relationship and sexual satisfaction, it's worth noting the most common frequency of sexual activity that average couples report having in bedrooms across the nation.

In a study of over 26,000 Americans, which was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, participants reported having sex 54 times a year, which averages out to approximately once a week.1 This reported frequency was found to be about nine sexual interactions a year lower since a similar study was conducted in 1990. The sample included those who were single, dating, married, and cohabitating. When the authors looked at married couples specifically, the average sexual frequency was slightly lower, at 51 sexual encounters a year, or just less than once a week on average.

The Happiest Response

How happy are couples that have sex at the national average of about once a week? While most of us might be inclined to believe that more sex is related to more happiness, research suggests there is a point of diminishing returns. In a study of over 30,000 Americans, published in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers examined the relationship between how often couples reported having sex and whether that related to their reported level of happiness.2 The researchers concluded that couples who were having sex once a week were the happiest, while couples who reported having sex two, three, or more times a week were no happier than those having sex once a week. They still reported being quite happy, but the research suggests they were just as happy as couples who had sex at the national average.

So couples having sex at the average of once a week are happy. And couples who have sex more often than that are just as happy. But what about those of us having sex less than once a week?

The Potentially Problematic Response

The study described above, which focused on sexual frequency and happiness, did conclude that those who were having sex less than once a week reported lower levels of happiness than those having sex once a week (or more).2 But according to other studies and experts on the topic, there is a considerable range of lower than average sexual frequencies. In one of the few studies on the topic of "sexless marriages," 16 percent of the 6,029 participants reported not having sex over the last month.3 The lead author of this study, Dr. Donnolly, has similarly estimated that 15 percent of couples have not had sex in the last six months. Using a slightly different unit of measurement, the author of the book Sex Starved Marriage, Michele Weiner Davis, defines a "sexless marriage" as one in which couples have sex 10 times a year or less.

The Reason You're Not Having Sex Matters More

The frequency with which we have sex receives a lot of attention, because it's the easiest way to measure and compare our sex lives to our peers. But having lots of bad sex isn’t going to make anyone happy, nor is it going to leave you feeling satisfied. It's important to recognize that the reasons we aren't having sex matter more than how often we are having it. That is, if we are fighting or falling out of love with our partner, not having sex could be a symptom of a much larger problem. However, if we are simply busy, sick, navigating parenthood, or identify as asexual (and the list goes on), then it may be more circumstantial and nothing to panic over.

It's important to remember that good, satisfying sex, even if it's once a month or less, may be preferable to having sex once a week when it's not eliciting sexual pleasure or feelings of intimacy and closeness.

Source of Information:-


1. Twenge, J.M., Sherman, R.A. & Wells, B.E. Arch Sex Behav (2017) 46: 2389.

2. Muise, A, Schimmack, U. & Impett, E., Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better, Social Psychology and Personality Science, 7, 4, 295-302.

3. Donnelly, D. (1993). Sexually inactive marriages. The Journal of Sex Research, 30, 2, 171-179.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Love pinching babies’ cheeks? Study explores basis of ‘cute aggression’

If you’ve ever felt a powerful impulse to squeeze a cute puppy or pinch a baby’s cheeks, you’ve felt what researchers refer to as “cute aggression.” A recent study conducted at the University of California, Riverside researchers attempted to figure out exactly what causes these bizarre, yet fairly common urges.

Cute aggression is characterized by an individual’s desire to squeeze, pinch, or even bite animals or humans without intent to harm. This behavior has been studied many times before, usually in the realm of behavioral psychology. But UCR assistant professor of special education and licensed clinical psychologist Katerine Stavropoulos went farther than previous research into the scientific explanation for this behavior.

After Stravropoulos first learned of cute aggression when reading a study by a team of Yale University psychologists in 2015, she wanted examine the phenomenon from a different perspective.

“The Yale researchers initially found that people reported feeling cute aggression more in response to baby animals versus adult animals,” explains Stavropoulos. “But even beyond that, people reported feeling cute aggression more in response to picture of human babies that had been digitally enhanced to appear more infantile, and therefore ‘more cute,’ by enlarging features like their eyes, cheeks, and foreheads.”

Stravropoloulos’ research focused on evaluating surface-level electrical activity arising from neurons firing in the brain. By interpreting that brain activity, she and her team could gauge neural responses to many kinds of external stimuli. She hypothesized that her studies of brain activity would reveal action in the brain’s reward system, which creates motivation, feelings of “want,” and pleasure, or in the brain’s emotional processing system, or both.

Researchers recruited 54 participants between the ages of 18 and 40 for the study. The participants wore caps embedded with electrodes and were shown 32 photographs divided into four categories: Cute digitally enhanced babies, less-cute non-digitally enhanced babies, cute baby animals, and less-cute adult animals.

The participants viewed the photos on a computer screen, then rated a set of statements by how much they agreed with them on a scale of 1 to 10. After assessing how cute each photo was, the participants also rated how overwhelmed by emotion they were by rating statements like, “I can’t stand it!” and “I want to hold it!”.

Participants were more likely to show cute aggression and feelings over overwhelm with cute baby animal photos compared to the less-cute adult animal photos. Interestingly, the same didn’t occur for cute and less-cute babies.

Still, ater examining brain scans of the participants before and after viewing the photos, Stravropolous and her team proved her hypothesis, that both the emotional center of the brain and the reward system are involved in feelings of cute aggression. The more infantile the object of this feeling is, the more intense the feeling.

“There was an especially strong correlation between ratings of cute aggression experienced toward cute animals and the reward response in the brain toward cute animals,” says Stavropoulos. “This is an exciting finding, as it confirms our original hypothesis that the reward system is involved in people’s experiences of cute aggression.”

She continues: “Essentially, for people who tend to experience the feeling of ‘not being able to take how cute something is,’ cute aggression happens. Our study seems to underscore the idea that cute aggression is the brain’s way of ‘bringing us back down’ by mediating our feelings of being overwhelmed.”

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Science.

This post was originally published April 29, 2019.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

New findings suggest smoking increases social isolation and loneliness

Previous research has found that people who are isolated and lonely are more likely to smoke. However, this latest study, which is the first of its kind, found that smoking itself may also lead to higher levels of isolation and loneliness.

The research, published this week in The Lancet Regional Health Europe and led by Imperial College London and UCL researchers, examined the relationship between smoking and the development of social isolation and loneliness.

It found that, over time, people who smoked saw their social contact reduce, and they became less socially engaged and more lonely, compared to non-smokers. With many people who smoke pledging to quit at the start of the new year, the authors hope that their new study will provide another incentive.

"Our research suggests smoking is bad for aspects of psychological and social health in addition to the well established physical impacts of smoking," said study author, Dr. Keir Philip, from Imperial's National Heart & Lung Institute.

"Some people think smoking is a social activity, but our study did not support this idea—smokers actually became more socially isolated and lonely than non-smokers over time."

He adds that their "findings contribute to existing knowledge in this area, and suggest the existence of a vicious cycle of smoking, social isolation, and loneliness. This research provides yet more reasons why people should aim to stop smoking this new year, and adds justification to increase support for people trying to quit."

The new study used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), consisting of a nationally representative sample of 8,780 people aged 50 years and older in England. Participants' social isolation and loneliness were assessed over 12 years (at the outset, then after 4, 8 and 12 years).

The researchers found that, at the outset of the study, current smokers were more likely to be lonely and socially isolated than non-smokers, having less frequent social interactions with family and friends, less frequent engagement with community and cultural activities, and being more likely to live alone.

Smoking was also associated with larger reductions in social contact, increases in social disengagement, and increases in loneliness over time.

These results remained even after considering factors like age, sex, and socioeconomic status.

Possible factors

The study is observational so cannot determine the cause of this association, but the authors speculate that it may be due to a range of factors.

For example, smokers are at an increased risk of developing breathlessness and other physical health problems, including lung and heart disease, which limit their ability to socialize.

Equally, smoking is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, which may impact the amount someone socializes.

In addition, friends of people who smoke are more likely to have smoked themselves and are therefore more likely to have died prematurely.

Other social factors include the reduced social acceptability of smoking generally, and in particular the expansion of smoke free legislation introduced to reduce the harms from passive smoking.

Professor Nick Hopkinson, another study author from Imperial's National Heart & Lung Institute, said that "most people already know that smoking is a risk to health. Our results suggest that smokers are also more likely to become socially isolated and lonely as they get older."

"These findings are another reason for the government to press on with introducing the policies needed to achieve its ambition for a smoke-free 2030. These include a 'polluter pays' levy on tobacco industry profits and raising the legal age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 years."

"Stopping smoking can be difficult, but the NHS has a number of excellent resources; to ensure that people get the help they need. These include free and proven tools and advice that help people quit smoking for good."

More information: Keir EJ Philip et al, Relationship of smoking with current and future social isolation and loneliness: 12-year follow-up of older adults in England, The Lancet Regional Health - Europe (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.lanepe.2021.100302

Monday, January 3, 2022

Why do wisdom teeth come in so late?

Wisdom-teeth removal is a rite of passage for many people in their late teens and early 20s. But why don't they come in during childhood with the rest of our permanent teeth?

The answer comes down to child development. There's not enough room in a child's jaw for wisdom teeth to come in. But as a kid grows, their jaw grows too, and there's more room for wisdom teeth to emerge, according to an October 2021 study in the journal Science Advances.

However, many modern human jaws don't grow long enough for wisdom teeth to come in without issue, which is why wisdom teeth removal is so common. Again, this is because of child development. Ancient humans ate diets full of hard nuts, uncooked vegetables, gamey meats and other tough foods. Following this diet as a youngster actually makes the jaw grow longer, Julia Boughner, anthropologist at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine in Canada, wrote in The Conversation. But as people in industrialized nations have shifted to eating softer foods, we've stopped maxing out our potential of jaw growth.

Another reason wisdom teeth come in during young adulthood is that they're not needed until then. When ancient people would grind down or lose their molars to tough food, wisdom teeth — the third set of molars — would take their place. "They're meant as kind of a backup for somebody who may have lost another molar tooth," said Steven Kupferman, an oral surgeon at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. But because most people don't lose their molars as young children, wisdom teeth wait until adulthood to arrive. In other words, if you lost your molars or ground them down as a child or teenager, your wisdom teeth are programmed to erupt to fill the gap.

The first set of permanent molars, or teeth in the back of the mouth that are designed to grind food, first come in around 6 years of age, when a child starts losing their baby teeth. Around age 12, the second molars emerge, serving as a backup to the 6-year molars in case they develop cavities, Kupferman told Live Science. Third molars, or wisdom teeth, come in around the ages of 17 to 21.

Nowadays, dentists often remove wisdom teeth because their emergence can cause pain in crowded mouths. Even if a person doesn't have pain, removing wisdom teeth in young adulthood can prevent health issues later in life, such as gum infections. Dentists and oral surgeons generally don't remove wisdom teeth as a preventive measure past age 27, because the risks of complications, such as damage to nearby nerves, increase. However, people may get their wisdom teeth removed past this age, usually due to issues such as pain.

Most people have 32 teeth, including four wisdom teeth. But some have more or less, and some people may be missing their wisdom teeth altogether, Kupferman said. Others may have a fourth molar, called a paramolar, behind each wisdom tooth. There is almost never enough space for paramolars in the modern human mouth, so they are always removed at the same time as the wisdom teeth.

Not everyone gets their wisdom teeth removed, though. "Even today, when people have teeth pulled for braces purposes, they often will keep their wisdom teeth because there's enough room for them," Kupferman said.

However, keeping your wisdom teeth can lead to issues down the line. Not all wisdom teeth pop through the gums during the late teens and early 20s. But as a person gets older and their gums recede, their wisdom teeth may peek through. In this case, the wisdom teeth come through the gums only partway, so they are prone to cavities and thus must be removed, Kupferman said.

"There are naysayers that [claim] all surgeons are just trying to make money by taking out wisdom teeth, but I think if you know any teenagers and you've seen just a few X-rays, you know that there's good reason to take out third molars," Kupferman said.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Sorry Everyone, There’s No Real Scientific Evidence That Any Hangover Cure Works

From the hair of the dog to overpriced green smoothies, there’s no shortage of purported tonics for the lingering effects of a night on the sauce. Unfortunately, however, new research suggests that these supposed hangover cures may be nothing more than folk remedies, as there’s no real scientific evidence that any of them actually work.

Appearing in the journal Addiction, the systematic review looks at 21 placebo-controlled trials involving an array of different compounds that are often used to alleviate hangovers. Using a tool called the Grading of Recommendations Assessment Development and Evaluation (GRADE) framework, the authors concluded that all of these trials were of very low quality, and that the evidence they provide cannot be considered robust.

That’s not to say that none of the substances investigated showed promise as hangover cures. On the contrary, clove extract, red ginseng and Korean pear juice were all found to reduce discomfort while hanging. Other compounds that brought about improvements included a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkiller called tolfenamic acid, a vitamin B6 analog known as pyritinol, and the amino acid L-cysteine.

However, the study authors say that all of the trials included in their review were hindered by “methodological concerns and imprecision”, and that none of these findings are particularly credible. For instance, they point out that most of these trials involved small numbers of participants, while the fact that none of these supposed hangover cures were investigated in more than one study makes it impossible to conduct any sort of meta-analysis.

Furthermore, the studies generally failed to report on key variables such as the type of alcohol used, whether or not this was ingested on an empty stomach, and how much time elapsed before the hangover remedy was administered. A general lack of female representation also detracts from the reliability of any findings, with eight of the 21 studies involving only men. Of the 386 participants across all of these trials, only 38.6 percent were women.

Interestingly, the study authors point out that common painkillers like aspirin or paracetamol have never been investigated as hangover cures in any placebo-controlled trial. Based on these observations, they call for “adequate scientific exploration [of potential hangover cures] in order that practitioners and the public be provided with accurate evidence-based information and do not rely on non-efficacious or potentially harmful interventions.”

Summing up the findings of this review paper, study author Dr Emmert Roberts explained that “evidence on these hangover remedies is of very low quality and there is a need to provide more rigorous assessment. For now, the surest way of preventing hangover symptoms is to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation.”


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Immune system can detect disease during pregnancy


 Better understanding of the normal development of a woman's immune system during pregnancy can offer diagnostic possibilities

Pregnancy is a challenge for the mother's immune system from the outset. Half of the genes in the foetus are foreign to her body.

The immune system has to strike a balance between tolerating the foetus and protecting the mother and foetus from infections. Throughout the pregnancy, an immunological balance takes place between mother and child.

At the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Centre for Molecular Inflammation Research (CEMIR), a research group is engaged in studying inflammation in pregnancy. The group has made findings that shed light on how the immune system behaves during pregnancy.
707 pregnant subjects

Anders Hagen Jarmund, a research programme student, and his colleagues at CEMIR are the first researchers to survey the development of women's immune responses throughout pregnancy.

The study followed 707 women with normal pregnancies, who gave birth to healthy full-term and post-term babies.

“Our immune system is regulated by cell signalling molecules called cytokines. The signalling molecules can trigger or stop immune responses. We profiled a number of different cytokines in the blood using a simple blood sample from the mother. Linking the measurements of lots of cytokines at several points in the pregnancy gave us an imprint of the mother's immune response,” says Jarmund.

“Because we have so many healthy pregnant women in the study, we were able to find the ‘standard’ for how the immune system behaves during normal pregnancies,” he says.
"Standard" pregnancy

Blood samples from the mother provide detailed information about inflammatory conditions in the body, the strain on the foetus and early signs of immunological disorder.

The researchers found that immune activity in normal pregnancies follows a certain pattern, with elevated immune activation in the first three months, then a calmer phase the next three and higher activity in the last three months, especially when childbirth is imminent
Finding abnormalities

Jarmund believes that studying the immune system's behaviour in normal pregnancies can be very useful.

“Our study can serve as a reference for what’s normal at different stages throughout pregnancy. By comparing analyses of blood samples from the pregnant woman with our survey, we can detect abnormalities very early,” Jarmund said.

“Early detection can help the doctor assess whether the woman has an increased risk of developing a disease and needs extra close follow-up.”
Risk factors

Jarmund discovered several conditions in the mother or foetus that created abnormalities in the immune response.

“The immune changes detected with cytokine profiling are so sensitive that they capture the effects of obesity and smoking in the mother. The immune system is also affected if the foetus is stunted, and may even indicate whether it’s a boy or a girl,” says Jarmund.

Another finding was that women who had given birth previously clearly had higher immune activation in the beginning of their pregnancy, but lower than first-time mothers as labour approached. Women who went over term had particularly strong immune activation, which might indicate stress.
Method used for PCOS

Live Marie T. Stokkeland is a PhD candidate at the same centre as Jarmund, as well as at the Women's Health and PCOS group led by Professor Eszter Vanky. Stokkeland is studying a group of women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).

PCOS is a hormonal disorder characterized by increased levels of male hormones and blisters on the ovaries. About 17 per cent of women of childbearing age are affected.

Women with PCOS often experience irregular menstruation, overweight and increased hair growth on the face and body, and they often struggle to conceive.The risks for women with PCOS during pregnancy include preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and premature birth.
Increased activity in the immune system

Stokkeland analysed blood samples from 358 women with PCOS and a sample group of healthy women.She found that women with the disease have higher immune activation throughout pregnancy than healthy women, and their immune response developed differently during the three phases of pregnancy.Women with PCOS who smoked or were overweight showed even stronger immune activation.

Once we’ve mapped the changes that characterize various pregnancy complications, it will show us which abnormalities we should look for in order to detect disease development as early as possible.

“We believe that the overactive cytokines in pregnant women with PCOS are an unfavourable response that indicates stress, and that may be a contributing factor to an increased risk of complications. We hope that further research will tell us more about the causes of adverse responses and what can be done to prevent them,” says Stokkeland.
Finding high-risk pregnancies

Professor Ann-Charlotte Iversen, who leads the group that is studying inflammation in pregnancy, believes the two studies offer exciting perspectives.

“A cytokine profile is a very sensitive measurement of the immune system, and now we have a better understanding of the immune system’s normal development in pregnancy and how it’s affected,” says Iversen.

“Once we’ve mapped the changes that characterize various pregnancy complications, it will show us which abnormalities we should look for in order to detect disease development as early as possible. Having this sensitive a method will enable us to point out high-risk pregnancies so we can follow up the mother and foetus more closely. That’s our goal,” says Iversen.

The research group at the Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine does not yet know whether each individual disease generates a unique "fingerprint" in the immune response. So far, the analyses have revealed an abnormal cytokine profile for PCOS and gestational hypertension (high blood pressure) in early pregnancy.

References: Anders Hagen Jarmund et al: Cytokine Patterns in Maternal Serum From First Trimester to Term and Beyond, Frontiers in Immunology.

How Long Is Too Long for a Couple to Go Without Sex? ... and why those who have more may not be any happier.

“How often do you and your partner have sex?” It’s a question that comes up often, albeit tentatively , exposing some of our deepest insecur...