Posted on Sunday, September 4th, 2016
Is sperm an effective antidepressant? Some groups agree, others disagree.
There’s some inherent risk in posting an article such as this. However, it’s necessary because multiple media sources have already reported or quoted this subject.
There are two groups of people about this topic: individuals who fully agree with this theory; others who believe that the initial study design around this subject is a flaw itself and the conclusion is statistically unsound.
Let’s begin with the people who agree with this theory. Michael Castman of Psychology Today writes an article agreeing with the notion that sperm affects depression. He cites a study by Gallup and Burch, which sought to discover why lesbians don’t appear to experience the “McClintock effect”—synchronizing menstrual cycles. Their study concludes that semen is the answer why. It contains hormones that decreases the likelihood of depression. Castman also brings up the association of risky sex with depression. Depression and negative self-esteem have a correlation with condom-less sex, but Gallup and Burch find that women in their study don’t experience depression. Castman’s article concludes that “semen spurs ovulation and makes women feel happier. He includes as his source an article appearing in Scientific American (“An ode to the many evolved virtues of human semen“), written by Jesse Bering, that launches into a fuller explanation of how sperm promotes happier moods in women. Bering further attempts to prove his point by citing a 2005 study about bareback sex among homosexual males. The subjects report feeling “closeness” with each other, an experience non-occurring when condoms are involved.
There’s another camp that suggests the evidence is underwhelming. Scott McGreal offers a rebuttal of the entire notion in Psychology Today article “Semen an Antidepressant? Think Again.” McGreal mentions several areas of weakness of the study. First, it cites an earlier study in 1985 by Ney that makes similarities in an evening oil palm and semen: they both contain a compound called prostaglandins. This chemical is responsible for the elevated moods, but according to Ney semen only contains tiny amounts of this substance. Furthermore, Ney cites his authority from a study about prostaglandins that reports low levels of the hormone leads to depression. However, depressed people don’t always have low levels of the hormone, nor does antidepressant medication increase production of it. McGreal offers other explanations: since condom usage decreases sensation in some women, they weren’t enjoying the experience fully and thus their levels of happiness fall; psychology probably plays a greater role, especially since there’s little biological evidence otherwise to suggest that sperm is a natural antidepressant.
Regardless of the pros and cons of the hypothesis, many websites tend to believe the antidepressant properties of sperm. Conduct a search about “sperm antidepressant” on Google, and hundreds of websites will appear promoting this fact. There’s only one website appearing that contradicts this notion: the article written by Scott McGreal.
What’s your opinion?
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