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The facts used to support the lascivious claims come from a small study looking at depression scores of women students who used condoms during sexual activity compared with those who did not. It found that sexually active women who did not use condoms reported fewer depressive symptoms than those who did.
From this the researchers seem to assume that semen may have antidepressant qualities. This study is full of holes — and extreme caution should be used when interpreting anything from it. Researchers only gleaned information about depression symptoms not diagnoses of depressionhow often the women had sex, and whether they used condoms, via an anonymous questionnaire. All of these facts greatly limit the reliability of the results.
This type of cross-sectional study symptoms and sexual behaviour assessed at the same time cannot prove cause and effect — as the authors acknowledge. The study was carried out by researchers from the State University of New York. The paper gives no information about any external funding. The study was published in in the peer-reviewed journal, Archives of Sexual Behaviour.
Both illustrated the story with photos of glamorous couples cavorting in their underwear. It is also unclear why it has taken more than 10 years for the research to make it to the news pages.
This was a cross-sectional study of women students, which looked at their condom use as an indirect measure of semen in the reproductive tract. It compared both condom use and sexual activity to how the women scored on a standard depression questionnaire.
The researchers say that previous researchers have hypothesised that semen may have an effect on mood in women — and that many of the hormones found in semen, including testosterone, oestrogen and prostaglandins, can be absorbed into the body through the vagina. They set out to test this hypothesis by measuring depressive symptoms in women and how it related to sexual activity and condom use.
Viewing condom use as an indirect measure of the presence of semen in the vagina, or in the bloodstream, may sound logical but is unreliable. It is even possible that sexually active women who did not use condoms used a contraceptive method called coitus interruptus, in which the penis is withdrawn from the vagina before ejaculation.
The researchers did not take account of this, Female despression caused by no sperm many other possible explanations for their results. The researchers recruited women undergraduates who answered an anonymous questionnaire designed to measure various aspects of their sexual behaviour, including:. Each woman was also asked to complete a standard questionnaire the Beck Depression Inventory which is widely used to measure depressive symptoms, including suicide attempts.
Researchers then analysed the results using standard statistical methods.
Their depression scores were found to vary in relation to their condom use. The researchers also found that women who did not use condoms had sex more often than those who used condoms most or all of the time. Researchers also examined whether being in a relationship might be a factor which affected depression scores. They subdivided participants into two groups — those who were currently in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex and those who were not.
They found no significant difference in depression scores between the two groups.
Nor did the length of the relationship correlate with depressive symptoms. They also point out that the finding that women having sex without condoms scored lower on depression than those abstaining from sex shows that it is not sexual activity in itself that is associated with an antidepressant effect.
They say there is other evidence which shows that the vagina absorbs a number of components of semen into the bloodstream, some of which may have antidepressant properties. It is difficult to know what to make of the study that the stories are loosely based on: It is possible that this story will become yet another of the many myths about sexual activity.
Although the researchers did try and take account of other factors that might affect both depression scores and Female despression caused by no sperm behaviour — such as how often women had sex and whether they were in a relationship — there are many unmeasured factors which might have affected both of these things and influenced the association, including family and study problems, illness and personality.
Even though they questioned whether the women were in a relationship or not, it is still difficult to assess from this the stability or security of the relationship, which could be associated with reduced depression symptoms and increased likelihood of using alternative, or longer term, methods of contraception.