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Surprising health benefits of having sex

More sex = Longer life for men

Men having frequent orgasms cut their risk of death in half.   For a decade, researchers at the university of Bristol tracked the mortality of about 1,000 middle-aged men of comparable circumstances, age and health. They found that men who reported frequency of orgasm twice a week or more had a death rate half that of those reporting orgasm less than monthly

British Medical Journal December 20, 1997; 315(7123): 1641-1644

Women who have enjoyed sex in the past live longer.    A Swedish study found that women did not live longer if they had sex more frequently, and neither did a study in North Carolina. [Persson, 1981/

However, in the North Carolina study, women who reported enjoying sex in the past lived longer than those who didn’t report enjoyment. Longevity was not correlated to current sexual enjoyment in either women or men. [Palmore, 1982]

Sex relieves stress

Sex produces a lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction

  • Penile / vaginal sex lowers BP.    Keeping records of their sexual activity, 24 women and 22 men in a Scottish study were subjected to stressful situations E.g. speaking in public, doing verbal arithmetic whilst tracking their blood pressure response. Researchers found that blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile/vaginal intercourse than for people who had other sexual behaviors [E.g. masturbatiion] or had abstained. [Brody, 2006]

OXYTOCIN that accompanies orgasm affects stress [Charnetski, 2001]

  • Low OXYTOCIN levels are correlated with higher incidence of anxiety disorders
  • Increased OXYTOCIN levels shown to reduce stress and alter response to stress [Weeks, 2002]

Satisfying sex increases output of the hormone /neurotransmitter DOPAMINE.   Known to aid relaxation and counteract hypertensive-related stress hormones, such as CORTISOL . DOPAMINE helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and those with low DOPAMINE activity are more prone to addictions. A deficiency of DOPAMINE is involved in Parkinson’s disease.

Sex decreases heart disease

Reduced CHD is associated with higher DHEA levels – DHEA is released during orgasm. [Feldman, 1998]

TESTOSTERONE has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart attack and to protect coronary muscle if heart attack occurs.   This hormone is involved in sex drive in women and men. [Booth et al, 1999; Fogari et al, 2002]

  • Salivary TESTOSTERONE level in men and women before and after intercourse are higher than when intercourse does not occur. [Dabbs et al, 1992]

Penile-vaginal sex correlates with greater HRV [Resting heart rate variability].   HRV is associated with indices of better mood, attention, self-regulation, responsiveness to emotional experience, fewer antisocial personality features, and less sexual dysfunction. In two studies of healthy German adults, a greater HRV was associated with greater penile/vaginal sex frequency, but not frequency of either masturbation or of noncoital [i.e. not penile/vaginal] partnered sex [Brody, 2000; Brody, 2003]

Sex may lower blood pressure.    Well not at the time, but in the long run.

  • The first of the Brody studies above was found to lower diastolic blood pressure [resting heart rate / 2nd # in BP reading].   However, the second study did not replicate this result
  • Women who hugged their partners had lower BP.    A study examined 59 premenopausal women before and after warm contact with their husbands/partners ending with hugs and found that frequent hugs lowered BP and raised OXYTOCIN [“bonding hormone”] levels. [Light et al, 2004]

Contrary to prevailing belief, frequent sexual intercourse does NOT result in an increased risk of stroke [Ebrahim, 2002]

Low libido / erectile dysfunction can be a “red-light” for high blood pressure / cardiovascular problems

Sex for weight control / physical fitness

Sex is a physical workout

  • Sex burns an estimated 50 – 60 calories per encounter.   Sex three times a week for a month would burn about 700 calories – the equivalent of jogging about seven miles.
  • An aroused person’s pulse rate rises from ~ 70 to 150 beats/minute  The same as that of an athlete putting forth maximum effort. Also, more nutrient and oxygen-carrying blood is pumped to the brain and other body tissues, improving brain function and overall health.
  • Muscular contractions during intercourse work the back, pelvis, thighs, buttocks, arms, neck and thorax  Increases flexibility in the limbs and strengthens the muscles.
  • Sex boosts Testosterone production.   Leads to stronger bones and muscles.

Higher levels of body fat are associated with less brain DOPAMINE activity.   This hormone/transmitter is output during satisfying sex

A study of healthy German adults revealed that men and women who had sex more frequently tended to be slimmer than those who didn’t have as much sex. [Brody, 2004]

Sex boosts immune system

Sex reduces frequency of colds and flu.   Scientists at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania tested saliva samples of 112 students, and found that those who had sex once or twice a week had 30% higher levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A [IgA], than those who abstained or had sex less than once a week. IgA is a “front-liner” for boosting the immune system. Interestingly, those who had sex three or more times a week had lower levels than those who had sex once or twice a week. It has been speculated that the more sexually active group was using sex to cover up for uncertainty or anxiety in the relationship. [Charnetski, 2001]

OXYTOCIN [The bonding hormone] heals wounds.   OXYTOCIN is responsible for that warm glow that comes after good sex.  Studies show that high levels of OXYTOCIN decrease inflammation-causing chemicals and speed up healing by as much as 25%.

Sex improves academic and possibly sporting performance

Improve your next day performance of doing something stressful by having penile/vaginal sex the night before – a Scottish study found that previous night sex can beneficially prepare you for such as making a speech or taking an exam. [Brody, 2006]

Sex for athletes? – one theory is that they get a boost from raised levels of the male hormone TESTOSTERONE.

  • Sex may or may not help male athletes.   Endocrinologist Emmanuele Jannini, of the University of L’Aquila in Italy, who has studied the effect of sex on sporting performances, says: “Some personalities need more concentration. In this case sex may be a bad idea. For other athletes, a bit of extra aggression could be the difference between winning and losing. In this case I would suggest complete and satisfactory sexual intercourse the evening before the game.”
  •  Sex may boost sporting performance in women.   According to some studies
  • For maximum performance levels, an athlete may need a couple hours after sex before a competetive event.   This is to allow sufficient cardiac recovery time [Sztajzel, 2000]

Sex improves fertility

Frequent intercourse improves semen quantity and quality – In three studies, men who had frequent intercourse had a higher volume of semen, a higher sperm count and a higher percentage of healthier sperm, compared with men who tended to participate in other sexual activities.

An Australian study involving 118 men having higher-than-average damaged sperm who had sex every day for a week found that 81% of men had 12% less DNA-damaged sperm. Experts consider that not having sperm “hanging around” in the body reduces the chance of sperm getting damaged by reactive oxygen species [ROS] . [Greening, 2009]

Regular, intimate sex improves menstrual regularity, which together with increased intercourse frequency,improves chances of fertility.   1975 thru 1986 studies found that women who engaged in penile-vaginal intercourse at least once every non-menstruating week had cycle lengths that were more regular than women who had intercourse sporadically or who were celibate. [Cutler et al, 1991]

A woman having an orgasm after the man may increase likelihood of conception.    A study found that women who had orgasms during intercourse after their male partners’ejaculation retained more sperm than those who did not reach orgasm or who had orgasm before their partners ejaculated. [Singh et al, 1998]

  • Sperm retained for 10-15 minutes in the vagina is associated with increased rates of fertilization [Levin, 2002]
  • OXYTOCIN released during orgasm enhances the peristaltic waves that run along the uterine wall towards the ovulating ovary.   Aiding the transport of sperm  [Blaicher et al, 1999; Kuntyz, 1996; Vaginal Sonography, Wildt et al, 1998]

Sex reduces risk of endometriosis.    Research at Yale and Southern Connecticut State Universities found that women who had sex [or used tampons] during their periods reduced their chances of endometriosis, an abnormal growth of uterus-like cells outside the uterus that is a common cause of infertility among women. [Meaddough, 2002]

Sex can diminish headaches and reduce other pains

“Honey I have a headache” is apparently not a logical excuse to avoid having sex.    Orgasms release OXYTOCIN and endorphins, neurotransmitters or brain chemicals which reduce pain sensation:

OXYTOCIN boosts pain threshold 50%.    A study in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine found that volunteers who inhaled OXYTOCIN vapour boosted their pain threshold by more than half.

Sexual activity-induced, pain-suppressing chemicals provide relief in:

  • PMS.   Sex also prompts production of estrogen in women, which can reduce the pain of PMS. 9% of ~1,900 U.S. women who reported masturbating in the previous 3 months cited relief of menstrual cramps [Ellison, 2000]
  • Arthritis
  • Lower back pain  [Shapiro, 1983]
  • Migraine.   A 2001 study of 83 women demonstrated some pain relief. Although not as effective as drugs, effects of orgasm as an analgesic were quicker. [Evans et al, 2001]

Stimulation of vaginal G-spot helped women tolerate 40% more pain.   Research carried out at the Rutgers University, New Jersey, established that during orgasm this ability to tolerate pain increased to 75%. Sexually active people are thus believed to better handle the pain associated with conditions such as arthritis, back pain and migraine. [Whipple et al, 1985; Komisaruk, 1995]

Sex puts you to sleep

OXYTOCIN released by satisfying sex or masturbation is nature’s Vallium – Men are more susceptible to this hormone than women, generally falling asleep within 2-5 minutes after sex, compared to women who take 20-to-25 minutes to nod off. Women, now you know why your man is not into post-coital conversation! [Odent, 1999]

  • One study found that 32% of 1,866 U.S. women who reported masturbating in the previous 3 months did so to help go to sleep [Ellison, 2000]

Sex has an anti-cancer effect

Sex lowers risk of prostate cancer – One possible reason may be that frequent ejaculation helps eliminate waste products from their semen and prevents carcinogens from building up in the prostatic ducts. Sex reduces tension and associated increase in potentially damaging oxidants. However, for the non-monogamous male, masturabation is a better choice for flushing the prostate, since having sex with multiple partners can raise a man’s risk of cancer by up to 40% due to the increased risk of contracting sexual infections.

  • The more frequently men aged 20-50 ejaculate, the less likely they are to develop prostate cancer.    Men in their 20s who ejaculated on average seven times a week or more were one-third less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer when compared with men who ejaculated less than three times a week at this age. [Giles et al, 2003]
  • Another study involving approximately 29,000 men also found that high ejaculation frequency [21 or more ejaculations/month averaged over lifetime] was related to a 33% lower lifetime risk of prostate cancer than the baseline group.   Includes sexual intercourse, nocturnal emission, and masturbation; each increase of three ejaculations per week during a man’s lifetime was associated with a 15% reduction in prostate cancer risk. [Leitzmann et al, 2004]

Sex lowers risk of breast cancer.    A French study found that the risk of developing breast cancer was three times higher in women who have not given birth having intercourse less than once/month, compared with women who have intercourse more often. [Lê et al, 1989]

Sex is a natural anti-depressant

Sex produces the “Love Hormone” phenylethylamine [PEA].   Possibly acting as a neurotransmitter, PEA is a chemical produced in greater quantities when we are in love which elevates mood and energy [we’ve all seen or experienced this starry-eyed phenomenon]. Conversely, a deficiency [common in manic-depressives] causes unhappy feelings. PEA is also present in cocoa and chocolate.

Male sexual intercourse frequency found to be inversely related to depression.   This study of men from 4 different cultures also found a direct correlation between sexual satisfaction and intercourse frequency. i.e. A perceived lack of a “healthy”sex life increases depression symptoms, as seen in those with erectile dysfunction. [Nicolosi et al, 2004]

Women directly exposed to semen are less depressed.   A Study of ~300 sexually active college women found that less depression and fewer suicide attempts were associated with those women who had sex without a condom compared to those who didn’t or abstained from sex. Of course, it could just be that a woman who casts care to the wind by having unprotected sex is by nature a carefree, happy person! [Gallup et al, 2002]

However as the study leader, psychologist Gordon Gallup points out, “I want to make it clear that we are not advocating that people abstain from using condoms. “Understandable, since getting an STD or experiencing an unwanted pregnancy is not going to brighten anyone’s mood! [Stiefelhagen, 1994]

Interestingly, a 1994 study of psychiatric patients in the Netherlands found that having sexual intercourse decreased the need for psychiatric medications

Frequent sex reduces menopausal / andropausal symptoms

Women who continue to be sexually active after menopause are less likely to have any significant vaginal atrophy.   Sexual activity includes masturbation; [Laan et al, 1997; Leiblum et al, 1983; Van Lunsen & Laan, 2004]

Menopausal women in Nigeria experienced fewer hot flashes when they had sex at least once a week.   Possibly by regulating hormonal levels of FSH and LH, which affect menopausal symptoms. Akinwale, 2007; Referenced by Brody, 2010]

Having regular erections increases the delivery of oxygen through increased blood flow.    Helps keep penile tissue healthy. [Montorsi et al, 1997; Zippe et al, 2001]

Sex keeps you looking younger

One of the strongest correlates to being judged 7-12 years less than your age was an active sex life.   In a 10 year study involving > 3,500 European and American women and men examining various factors associated with youthful appearance, a panel of judges viewed the participants through a one-way mirror and then guessed the age of each subject. On average, “younger-looking-than-their years” participants reported engaging in sexual intercourse three times a week compared to the control group’s average of twice a week. [Weeks, 1998]

Sex gives women better bladder control

Sex strengthens the pelvic floor muscles that control the flow of urine.   Kegel exercises occur naturally during sex, giving women better bladder control.

Sex improves sense of smell

PROLACTIN hormone production surges after sex.   This causes stem cells to develop new neurons in the brain’s olfactory bulb, its smell center.


Good study references on the health benefits of sex

Akinwale SO. [2007] Comparative study of coitus and non-coitus in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Afr J Med Med Sci; 36:17-21

Booth, Alan, et al. [1999]. “Testosterone and Men’s Health.”Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 22[1], 1-19.

Blaicher, W., et al. [1999]. “The Role of Oxytocin in Relation to Female Sexual Arousal.”Gynecological ObstetricalInvestigation, 47, 125-6

Brody S, Veit R, Rau H. [2000]A preliminary report relating frequency of vaginal intercourse to heart rate variability, Valsalva ratio, blood pressure, and cohabitation status. Biol Psychol 2000;52:251-7. PubMed,

Brody S, Preut R. [2003] Vaginal intercourse frequency and heart rate variability. J Sex Marital Ther 2003;29:371-80. PubMed,

Brody S. [2004] Slimness is associated with greater intercourse and lesser masturbation frequency. J Sex Marital Ther 2004;30:251-61 PubMed

Brody S. [2010] The relative health benefits of different sexual activities. J Sex Med 7:1336-1361.

Brody S. [2006] Blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity Biological Psychology Volume 71, Issue 2, Feb, 2006 Pages 214-222 Abstract

Charnetski, Carl J. & Francis X. Brennan. [2001]. Feeling Good Is Good For You: How Pleasure Can Boost Your Immune System and Lengthen Your Life. Emmaus, PA: RodalePress, Inc

Cutler, Winnifred B. [1991]. Love Cycles: The Science of Intimacy. New York: Villard Books.

Dabbs Jr., J.M. & S. Mohammed. [1992]. “Male and Female Salivary Testosterone Concentrations Before and After Sexual Activity.”Physiology and Behavior, 52[1], 195-7.

Ebrahim, S., et al. [2002]. “Sexual Intercourse and Risk of Ischaemic Stroke and Coronary Heart Disease: The Caerphilly Study.”Journal of Epidemiology Community Health, 56, 99-102.

Ellison, Carol Rinkleib. [2000]. Women’s Sexualities. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Evans, Randolph W. & James R. Couch. [2001]. “Orgasm and Migraine.”Headache, 41, 512-4.

Feldman, Henry A., et al. [1998]. “Low Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate and Heart Disease inMiddle-Aged Men: Cross-Sectional Results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study.”Annals of Epidemiology, 8[4], 217-28.

Fogari, Roberto, et al. [2002]. “Sexual Activity and Plasma Testosterone Levels in Hypertensive Males.”American Journal of Hypertension, 15[3], 217-21.

Gallup, Gordon G., et al. [2002]. “Does Semen Have Antidepressant Properties?”Archives of Sexual ehavior, 31[3], 289-93.

Giles GGSeveri GEnglish DRMcCredie MRBorland RBoyle PHopper JL. [2003]Sexual factors and prostate cancer. BJU Int. 2003 Aug;92[3]:211-6. PubMed

Greening, David et al. [2009] Private fertility clinic, Sydney, Australia

Komisaruk, Barry R. & Beverly Whipple. [1995]. “The Suppression of Pain by Genital Stimulation in Females.”Annual Review of Sex Research, 151-86.

Kunz, G., et al. [1996]. “The Dynamics of Rapid Sperm Transport Through the Female Genital Tract: Evidence from

Laan, E. & R.H. van Lunsen. [1997]. “Hormones and Sexuality in Postmenopausal Women: A Psychophysiological Study.”Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 18[2],126-33.

Lê, M.G., et al. [1989]. “Characteristics of Reproductive Life and Risk of Breast Cancer in a Case-Control Study of Young Nulliparous Women.

Leiblum, Sandra, et al. [1983]. “Vaginal Atrophy in the Postmenopausal Woman: The Importance of Sexual Activity and Hormones.”JAMA, 249[16], 2195-8.

Leitzmann MF, Platz EA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, [2004] Giovannucci E. Ejaculation frequency and subsequent risk of prostate cancer. JAMA. 291[13]:1578-1586. Abstract

Levin, Roy J. [2002]. “The Physiology of Sexual Arousal in the Human Female: A Recreational and Procreational Synthesis.”Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31[5], 405-11

Light KC, Grewen KM, Amico JA. [2004] More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biol Psychol. 2005 Apr;69[1]:5-21. Epub 2004 Dec 29. PubMed

Meaddough, Erika L., et al. [2002]. “Sexual Activity, Orgasm and Tampon Use Are Associated with a Decreased Risk for Endometriosis.”Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, 53, 163-9.

Montorsi, F., et al. [1997]. “Recovery of Spontaneous Erectile Function After Nerve-Sparing Radical Retropubic Prostatectomy With and Without Early Intracavernous Injections of Alprostadil: Results of a Prospective, Randomized Trial.”Journal of Urology, 158[4], 1408-10;

NNicolosi, Alfredo, et al. [2004]. “A Population Study of the Association between Sexual Function, Sexual Satisfaction and Depressive Symptoms in Men.”Journal of Affective Disorders, 82, 235-43.

Odent, Michel. [1999]. The Scientification of Love. London, UK:Free Association Books imited. Odent.

Shapiro, D. [1983]. “Effect of Chronic Low Back Pain on Sexuality.”Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 17, 241-5. As cited in Komisaruk & Whipple, 1995.

Palmore, E. [1982]. “Predictors of the Longevity Difference: A Twenty-Five Year Follow-Up.”The Gerontologist, 22, 513-8.

Persson, G. [1981]. “Five-year Mortality in a 70-Year-Old Urban Population in Relation to Psychiatric Diagnosis, Personality, Sexuality and Early Parental Death.”Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 64, 244-53;

Sztajzel, J., et al. [2000]. “Effect of Sexual Activity on Cycle Ergometer Stress Test Parameters, on Plasmatic Testosterone Levels and on Concentration Capacity. A Study in High-Level Male Athletes Performed in the Laboratory.”Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 40[3], 233-9.

Singh, Devendra, et al. [1998]. “Frequency and Timing of Coital Orgasm in Women Desirous of Becoming Pregnant.”Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27[1], 15-29.

Stiefelhagen, S. [1994]. De social erotische dienstverlening. In:Seks, lang zo gek nog niet. Symposium over seksualiteit en relaties in de psychiatrie. Rutgers Stichting Eindhoven.

Weeks, David & Jamie James. [1998]. Secrets of theSuperyoung. New York: Berkley Books.Bottom of Form

Weeks, David J. [2002]. “Sex for the Mature Adult: Health, Self-Esteem and Countering Ageist Stereotypes.”Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17[3], 231-40.

Vaginal Sonography of Uterine Peristalsis andHysterosalpingoscintigraphy.”Human Reproduction, 11[3],627-32.

van Lunsen, R.H. & E. Laan. [2004]. “Genital Vascular Responsiveness and Sexual Feelings in Midlife Women:Psychophysiologic, Brain, and Genital Imaging Studies.”Menopause, 11[6 Pt 2], 741-8.

Whipple, Beverly & Barry R. Komisaruk. [1985]. “Elevation of Pain Threshold by Vaginal Stimulation in Women.”Pain, 21, 357-67. Abstract

Wildt, L., et al. [1998]. “Sperm Transport in the Human Female Genital Tract and Its Modulation by Oxytocin as Assessed by Hysterosalpingoscintigraphy, Hysterotonography, Electrohysterography and Doppler Sonography.”Human Reproduction Update, 4[5], 655-66.

Zippe, C.D., et al. [2001]. “Management of Erectile Dysfunction Following Radical Prostatectomy.”Current Urology Reports, 2[6], 495-503

Good study references on the health benefits of sex


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