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Masturbation Helps Women Cope with Stress, Study Finds

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Recent research sheds light on the complex relationship between psychological distress and masturbation among women, revealing that this often-stigmatised behaviour may have significant benefits for mental health and well-being.

The study involved 370 women and utilised a concurrent mixed-methods design to investigate the link between psychological stress and the frequency of masturbation, with a particular focus on the types of stimulation – clitoral and vaginal.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Sexual Health, suggest that masturbation, particularly clitoral stimulation, is commonly used by women as a coping mechanism for stress and emotional regulation.

Masturbation has historically been a taboo topic, often associated with negative health and moral implications, especially among women. However, this study is part of a growing body of research challenging these outdated views, suggesting instead that masturbation can be a positive self-care practice.

The quantitative data from the study indicated a significant relationship between increased psychological distress and higher frequencies of clitoral masturbation. This relationship was not observed with vaginal stimulation. The qualitative data provided further insight, with many participants describing masturbation as a reliable way to alleviate stress and achieve personal satisfaction and relaxation.

Participants reported various psychological benefits associated with masturbation, including improved mood, increased feelings of happiness and relaxation, and even pain relief. These benefits were particularly noted in times of high stress, such as examination periods or intense work deadlines.

The study also highlighted that while masturbation can evoke feelings of shame or guilt in some individuals – likely a residue of societal stigma – these feelings were relatively uncommon among the participants. Most women viewed masturbation as a healthy part of their sexual life, beneficial to their mental health and emotional well-being.

Fabienne Wehrli, a researcher from the University of Zurich, commented on the study: “The idea of masturbation as a coping strategy has gained traction, particularly amongst women, who have historically faced discouragement, stigma, or even prohibition regarding masturbation. With societal attitudes towards masturbation shifting in Western cultures, and existing evidence highlighting its benefits, we were intrigued to learn more about the association between masturbation, psychological distress, and coping in women.”

Wehrli continued, “For this purpose, we used a concurrent mixed-method design with 370 women and explored the association between psychological distress and both clitoral and combined clitoral and vaginal masturbation frequency. Furthermore, we interviewed the women regarding their experience with masturbation. The results revealed that, while increased psychological distress correlated with a higher frequency of clitoral masturbation, no such association was found with combined clitoral and vaginal masturbation frequency. From the reported experiences of the interviewed women, we inferred that masturbation could function as a coping mechanism, elicit positive emotional states and serve as a form of self-care.”

She added: “Our findings challenge the historical marginalisation of masturbation and highlight its significant mental health benefits for women. With psychological distress on the rise, spreading awareness about masturbation as a form of self-care could be beneficial for health literacy, especially in women who experience much distress. We believe this knowledge can empower women to explore the potential of the clitoris for their mental health. Furthermore, the results could inspire the education system to fully embrace sex- and pleasure-positive sex education, especially for girls.”

The findings have significant implications for both mental health professionals and society at large. They suggest that masturbation should be destigmatized and discussed openly as a normal and healthy part of female sexuality. This could lead to more women feeling empowered to engage in masturbation as a form of stress relief and self-care without guilt or shame.

Recognising the health benefits of masturbation can also encourage healthcare providers to discuss sexual health more openly with their patients, integrating it as part of holistic health approaches.

Wehrli also suggested directions for future research: “In future research, analysis through daily diary studies could offer deeper insights into how masturbation affects pain, sleep quality, and overall psychological well-being in the short and long term. Such insights would enable us to offer more tailored recommendations to support women’s health and assist healthcare professionals in their recommendations to patients.”

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