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Does Cybersex Produce Oxytocin?

Web Pro News pointed to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald reporting on a study which found that high levels of anxiety and depression among men who frequented sexy sites online. Study author Marcus Squirrell, a doctoral student at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

According to the newspaper article,

"We found that 27 per cent of them were moderate to severely depressed on the standard depression scales," Mr. Squirrell said.

"Thirty per cent had high levels of anxiety and 35 per cent were moderately to severely stressed, which is of course extremely high."

The more heavily they engaged in online sexual activity the higher their level of depression and anxiety was, he said.

Jason Lee Miller of Web Pro News raises two interesting questions: First, does cybersex cause depression or are heavy indulgers already depressed and trying to relieve their anxiety or depression? Second,

Something else simulated or cybersex lacks, which deserves more study as to the effect on depression and anxiety, is the release of oxytocin, a hormone released during labor, but also is generated by physical touch as a bonding chemical between mothers and infants during breastfeeding, and also between lovers. 

Actually, it looks like masturbation causes the same oxytocin release as does partner sex, according to a 1999 study.

See my comment on Jason's post for more.

Massage Mellows Marriage

I'm trying to catch up with the flood of oxytocin news in the past few months. This USA Today article discusses research at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah.

The study of young married couples began with some training on ways to increase closeness, but mostly, it studied the young-marrieds in their natural habitats.

Twenty couples, all married at least six months, participated in a four-week intervention that promoted emotional and physical closeness. They were brought into the lab for training and testing, but the bulk of their actions were at home, including a 30-minute massage (neck, shoulder or forehead) three times a week.

The study found that massage and other kinds of loving touch reduced blood pressure and cortisol, especially among men, while raising oxytocin levels. At last, scientific proof that it's good to be nice to your spouse.