04 April 2004

We Should Learn From Our Neighbors

I like the tenacity of Tony Abbott. He is the Australian Federal Health Minister. Last month, he stirred a hornet's nest in their country when he described the 100,000 Australian abortions each year as a "national tragedy" borne out of a culture "where people did not take responsibility seriously".

This week, he is in the news again for his proposal to give Aussie parents greater access to the health records of their children. He is heavily distressed by what he calls "open-slather sexual activity" by those younger than 16.

This is in the light of a study last year of the sexual health of 2,388 secondary school students by La Trobe University, Melbourne, in which 25% of year 10 students and more than 50% of those in year 12 were sexually active. The same study also found that 20% did not use any contraception methods.

Abbott says it was not acceptable to simply concede that 15- and 16-year-olds were sexually active.

In my opinion, Abbott should at least take into consideration the fact that when young people (12-17 year olds) experience thoughts of love and other symptoms of "sexual heat," this may be at least in part because of biological and evolutionary factors.

Hormonal changes occur a lot during the adolescent stage. The key hormone involved for both boys and girls is testosterone, which is responsible for increasing our sex drives. I do not know of any study that links sexual drive with climate, but I have a theory that just like animals, humans will have higher sexual drives (higher testosterone levels) during spring and summer. I can bet also that the period covered in the Australian study mentioned above was done during their spring-summer season.

Hormone release is associated with circadian rhythms or the body's internal clocks. In winter, for example, when nights are lengthier than days, there is more melatonin (sleep hormone) being released. People tend to sleep and oversleep. They feel lethargic, they tend to overeat, and have less interest in sex. Conversely, during spring and summer, days are lengthier than nights, and there is more light. People have trouble sleeping and getting back to sleep. Likewise, there is an increased release of testosterone which might account for the increased sexual drives and increased amorous tones in both sexes. Studies should be done to document the existence of this link.

I am also amused that while Australia (and also the Philippines) has problems on how to curb sexual activity, countries like Singapore are anxious about their dwindling population. In Singapore, they consider pregnant women as "heroes." There is even news that the Singaporean Parliament will soon dish out baby bonuses. Some have suggested cash incentives of up to $6,000 for a woman who has a second child and $12,000 for a third. Friend Batjay has posts that can attest to this fact.

Such is the beauty of our differences. Australians would love to learn from Singaporeans how to stop the itch, and consequently, Singaporeans would like to ask Australians how they can get their groove back.

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