Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Cost of Promiscuity

America's Health Burden From Sex Three Times Higher Than Others

Americans suffer from negative health effects brought on by their sexual conduct at a rate that is three times higher than other economically advanced countries according to a study published in SexuallyTransmitted Infections. The study, "Sexual behaviour: related adverse health burden in the United States," is unique because it measures the health ramifications of sexual conduct by counting not only death and diseases but by examining other adverse health affects related to sex.

Using data from 1998, the study found that 7.5 percent of Americans suffered a negative health incident resulting from sexual activity andthat 1.3 percent of all deaths in America can be attributed to sexual behavior.

The study notes that previous efforts to measure the health effects of sexual activity did not go far enough and failed to take into consideration all the ways in which quality of life can be diminished by promiscuity. According to the report, "Measuring adverse outcomes of reproduction or sexual behaviour by counting deaths or diseases alone is inadequate for a proper understanding of the dimensions of the issue. Many such adverse outcomes occur at a young age leading to a large component of lifespan lived with disability. Many deaths from such adverse outcomes occur at a young age and such loss of productive life is not captured bymortality statistics."

Among the illnesses brought on by sexual behavior that are lethal for men, HIV is far and away the largest killer. There were 36,000 incidences of the virus in 1998 and 18,221 deaths accounting for 93 percent of all deaths of men from sexual behavior. For women, 8,200 contracted HIV and4,234 died of it making it second to cervical cancer, which took the lives of 4,921 women, as the biggest killer of women.

The study also calculated the Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY)cost for illnesses brought on by sexual behavior. DALY is a number that combines into a single measurement the loss of healthy years of life from an illness and the years of life cut short by premature death from an illness. While total deaths caused by sexual behavior for both men andwomen were 29,782, the total cost in Disability Adjusted Life Years was more than 2 million. The study noted that its data "included more unsafe sex related conditions than were considered in previous analyses for theUnited States" including "hepatitis, infertility," damage to men's reproductive capabilities, "maternal conditions, and abortions."

Though it was not listed among the study's prominent findings, women's fertility takes a huge hit. There were 598,000 annual incidences of infertility resulting from sexual behavior leading to a cost in Disability Adjusted Life Years of 843,747. In fact, infertility produced the highest DALY cost of any of the negative health effects of sexual activity.

Beyond the toll of HIV - which had a DALY cost for men of 557,021 -men were hit especially hard by the Hepatitis B virus. With more than 1.5million incidences of the virus among men the DALY cost came to 279,624.

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