Navigation Links
Economic analysis finds penicillin, not "the pill," may have launched the sexual revolution
Date:1/27/2013

PThe rise in risky, non-traditional sexual relations that marked the swinging '60s actually began as much as a decade earlier, during the conformist '50s, suggests an analysis recently published by the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

"It's a common assumption that the sexual revolution began with the permissive attitudes of the 1960s and the development of contraceptives like the birth control pill," notes Emory University economist Andrew Francis, who conducted the analysis. "The evidence, however, strongly indicates that the widespread use of penicillin, leading to a rapid decline in syphilis during the 1950s, is what launched the modern sexual era."

As penicillin drove down the cost of having risky sex, the population started having more of it, Francis says, comparing the phenomena to the economic law of demand: When the cost of a good falls, people buy more of the good.

"People don't generally think of sexual behavior in economic terms," he says, "but it's important to do so because sexual behavior, just like other behaviors, responds to incentives."

Syphilis reached its peak in the United States in 1939, when it killed 20,000 people. "It was the AIDS of the late 1930s and early 1940s," Francis says. "Fear of catching syphilis and dying of it loomed large."

Penicillin was discovered in 1928, but it was not put into clinical use until 1941. As World War II escalated, and sexually transmitted diseases threatened the troops overseas, penicillin was found to be an effective treatment against syphilis.

"The military wanted to rid the troops of STDs and all kinds of infections, so that they could keep fighting," Francis says. "That really sped up the development of penicillin as an antibiotic."

Right after the war, penicillin became a clinical staple for the general population as well. In the United States, syphilis went from a chronic, debilitating and potentially fatal disease to one that could be cured with a single dose of medicine.

From 1947 to 1957, the syphilis death rate fell by 75 percent and the syphilis incidence rate fell by 95 percent. "That's a huge drop in syphilis. It's essentially a collapse," Francis says.

In order to test his theory that risky sex increased as the cost of syphilis dropped, Francis analyzed data from the 1930s through the 1970s from state and federal health agencies. Some of the data was only available on paper documents, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) digitized it at the request of Francis.

For his study, Francis chose three measures of sexual behavior: The illegitimate birth ratio; the teen birth share; and the incidence of gonorrhea, a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease that tends to spread quickly.

"As soon as syphilis bottoms out, in the mid- to late-1950s, you start to see dramatic increases in all three measures of risky sexual behavior," Francis says.

While many factors likely continued to fuel the sexual revolution during the 1960s and 1970s, Francis says the 1950s and the role of penicillin have been largely overlooked. "The 1950s are associated with prudish, more traditional sexual behaviors," he notes. "That may have been true for many adults, but not necessarily for young adults. It's important to recognize how reducing the fear of syphilis affected sexual behaviors."

A few physicians sounded moralistic warnings during the 1950s about the potential for penicillin to affect behavior. Spanish physician Eduardo Martinez Alonso referenced Romans 6:23, and the notion that God uses diseases to punish people, when he wrote: "The wages of sin are now negligible. One can almost sin with impunity, since the sting of sinning has been removed."

Such moralistic approaches, equating disease with sin, are counterproductive, Francis says, stressing that interventions need to focus on how individuals may respond to the cost of disease.

He found that the historical data of the syphilis epidemic parallels the contemporary AIDS epidemic. "Some studies have indicated that the development of highly active antiretroviral therapy for treating HIV may have caused some men who have sex with men to be less concerned about contracting and transmitting HIV, and more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors," Francis says.

"Policy makers need to take into consideration behavioral responses to changes in the cost of disease, and implement strategies that are holistic and longsighted," he concludes. "To focus exclusively on the defeat of one disease can set the stage for the onset of another if preemptive measures are not taken."


'/>"/>

Contact: Beverly Clark
beverly.clark@emory.edu
404-712-8780
Emory University
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. 2013 economic outlook for global chemical industry
2. Game-based economics research explains why we roll the dice on flu shots
3. Declining access to electroconvulsive therapy: A clinical choice or an economic one?
4. US health disadvantage spans age and socioeconomic groups
5. Economic environment during infancy linked with substance use, delinquent behavior in adolescence
6. Economic Conditions at Birth Linked to Behavior in Teen Years
7. Disease burden links ecology to economic growth
8. Successful results against human leishmaniasis with a more efficient and economic vaccine
9. Familys economic situation influences brain function in children
10. In financial ecosystems, big banks trample economic habitats and spread fiscal disease
11. Sociology, economics researchers receive grant to study development across the human lifespan
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/25/2017)... Ariz. (PRWEB) , ... April 25, 2017 , ... Emergency ... latest book of the Outlier Leadership Series, Outliers in Writing, set to publish in ... Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. He also ...
(Date:4/25/2017)... ... 25, 2017 , ... Amendia, Inc., designer, developer, and manufacturer ... with and platinum sponsorship of Global Spine Outreach (“GSO”), a charitable organization dedicated ... complex spine deformity cases, particularly in children. , GSO’s focus is to provide ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... , ... April 24, 2017 , ... Michael Vick announced ... transforming the quarterback position. The former overall number one pick in the 2001 NFL ... career. He holds the record for the most career rushing yards by a quarterback ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... Houston, TX (PRWEB) , ... April 24, 2017 , ... ... Holocaust Memorial Museum today to honor the victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, ... remembrance ceremonies at Hadamar and Auschwitz on its CMATH Champions trip to Germany and ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... ... ... , a national non-profit organization focusing on the prevention and early detection of breast and ... to announce Katie Thiede as their new Chief Executive Officer. In January, founder Lindsay Avner ... Board and launched a national search to find a visionary new leader to grow Bright ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:4/18/2017)... 18, 2017  Cardinal Health (NYSE: CAH ... 2017 earnings per share (EPS) guidance and providing a ... in conjunction with this morning,s announcement of the planned ... Nutritional Insufficiency businesses. Cardinal Health now believes ... be at the bottom of its previous guidance range ...
(Date:4/18/2017)... -- Viverae ® , a leader in workplace wellness ... ® Watson Campaign Automation, implementing behavioral messaging within ... personalized experience. Through digital engagement, the platform prompts members ... time. The enhanced experience drives engagement by focusing on ... are in their journey to health. ...
(Date:4/18/2017)... SAN DIEGO , April 18, 2017  Astute ... previewed a case series to be presented at the ... , which begins today and continues through April 22. ... and IGFBP-7 , used to assess risk for acute ... acute decompensated heart failure (ADHF). Elevated ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: