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Sex makes lockdown more bearable

Tristan Manalac
06 Jan 2021

Recent research has found that being sexually active while under lockdown may ease its associated mental burdens, protecting against depressive and anxiety tendencies.

“The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the consequent lockdown have had unprecedented, dramatic repercussions at both macrosocial, such as the economy and policy, and microsocial level, such as on the psychological and relational well-being of persons,” the researchers said. “We found in our naturalistic observation that sexual functioning acts as a predictor and marker of psychological well-being.”

Using a web-based questionnaire, the researchers surveyed 2,608 participants (mean age, 35.94±11.02 years; 62.2 percent female with sexual activity during the lockdown (group A) and 4,213 without (group B; mean age, 30.91±10.93 years; 60.6 percent female). The questionnaire included items on sociodemographic factors, as well as relevant psychometric and sexological information.

At the onset of the lockdown, 69.3 percent of group A were either married or cohabitant with their partners, while 91.9 percent of group B were single or engaged (p<0.0001). In addition, participants in group A tended to spend the lockdown with their partners, while those in group B lived alone or with their relatives (p<0.001). [J Sex Med 2021;18:35-49]

Notably, 26.7 percent of the sexually active respondents did not cohabitate with their partners, and 7.3 percent of those who did live with their partners nevertheless remained sexually inactive.

Group B participants scored significantly higher on the Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD-7; 7.26±4.44 vs 6.01±4.23; p<0.0001) and Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9; 8.31±5.17 vs 6.73±4.75; p<0.0001), suggesting that they experienced worse symptoms of anxiety and depression, respectively, than their sexually active counterparts.

One-way analysis of covariance showed that women, those who had no sexual activity under lockdown, and those who lived away from their partner were all significantly more likely to report worse GAD-7 and PHQ-9 scores.

Logistic regression analysis confirmed these patterns. Respondents who were forced into sexual inactivity due to the lockdown, but who were otherwise sexually active before, were more than 30-percent more likely to develop depression (odds ratio [OR], 1.34, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.15–1.57; p=0.0001) and anxiety (OR, 1.32, 1.12–1.57; p=0.0035).

In contrast, those who were already sexually inactive before the lockdown did not see such an increase in the risk of both psychological outcomes.

In addition, sexual inactivity also wounded relationship quality. Group B scored significantly lower than Group A in all dyadic domains of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (p<0.001 for all).

“We believe that the present study represents a first, large-scale attempt to explain the modifications of the psychological, relational, and sexological functioning of the individuals exposed to a major social and personal distress,” the researchers said.

“Considering the ability of relational and sexual health in improving intrapsychic health, the former should be carefully considered when establishing the norms of quarantine and when analyzing their efficacy based on the personal adhesion,” they added.

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Roshini Claire Anthony, 01 Dec 2020

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