There are a lot of people out there right now hoping for some good hard evidence (no pun intended) linking sexual activity with long life. Well, if this article doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
Before we get started though, it should first be stated that the benefits derived from sexual activity are more than offset by the risks associated with a promiscuous lifestyle.
That is to say that researchers almost universally agree that a healthy sex life is normally only beneficial in terms of monogamous relationships. Studies have shown that a promiscuous lifestyle can increase risks of disease by 40% due to increased risk of STDs.
This article will make extensive use of referencing and hyperlinks to research elsewhere. All information has been drawn from sources which seem, in my non-medical opinion, to be reasonably reputable and/or authoritative. So, let’s get it on!
Forbes Magazine ran an article entitled Is Sex Necessary:
Having regular and enthusiastic sex confers a host of measurable physiological advantages, be you male or female. (This assumes that you are engaging in sex without contracting a sexually transmitted disease.)
In one of the most credible studies correlating overall health with sexual frequency, Queens University in Belfast tracked the mortality of about 1,000 middle-aged men over the course of a decade. The study was designed to compare persons of comparable circumstances, age and health.
Its findings, published in 1997 in the British Medical Journal, were that men who reported the highest frequency of orgasm enjoyed a death rate half that of the laggards. Other studies (some rigorous, some less so) purport to show that having sex even a few times a week has an associative or causal relationship with the following:
- Improved sense of smell: After sex, production of the hormone prolactin surges. This in turn causes stem cells in the brain to develop new neurons in the brain’s olfactory bulb, its smell center.
- Reduced risk of heart disease: In a 2001 follow-on to the Queens University study mentioned above, researchers focused on cardiovascular health. Their finding? That by having sex three or more times a week, men reduced their risk of heart attack or stroke by half.
- Weight loss, overall fitness: Sex, if nothing else, is exercise. A vigorous bout burns some 200 calories–about the same as running 15 minutes on a treadmill or playing a spirited game of squash. The pulse rate, in a person aroused, rises from about 70 beats per minute to 150, the same as that of an athlete putting forth maximum effort. British researchers have determined that the equivalent of six Big Macs can be worked off by having sex three times a week for a year.
- Muscular contractions during intercourse work the pelvis, thighs, buttocks, arms, neck and thorax. Sex also boosts production of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles. Men’s Health magazine has gone so far as to call the bed the single greatest piece of exercise equipment ever invented.
- Reduced depression: Such was the implication of a 2002 study of 293 women. American psychologist Gordon Gallup reported that sexually active participants whose male partners did not use condoms were less subject to depression than those whose partners did. One theory of causality: Prostaglandin, a hormone found only in semen, may be absorbed in the female genital tract, thus modulating female hormones.
- Pain-relief: Immediately before orgasm, levels of the hormone oxytocin surge to five times their normal level. This in turn releases endorphins, which alleviate the pain of everything from headache to arthritis to even migraine. In women, sex also prompts production of estrogen, which can reduce the pain of PMS.
- Less-frequent colds and flu: Wilkes University in Pennsylvania says individuals who have sex once or twice a week show 30% higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, which is known to boost the immune system.
- Better bladder control: Heard of Kegel exercises? You do them, whether you know it or not, every time you stem your flow of urine. The same set of muscles is worked during sex.
- Better teeth: Seminal plasma contains zinc, calcium and other minerals shown to retard tooth decay. Researchers have noted, parenthetically, that sexual etiquette usually demands the brushing of one’s teeth before and/or after intimacy, which, by itself, would help promote better oral hygiene.
- A happier prostate? Some urologists believe they see a relationship between infrequency of ejaculation and cancer of the prostate. The causal argument goes like this: To produce seminal fluid, the prostate and the seminal vesicles take such substances from the blood as zinc, citric acid and potassium, then concentrate them up to 600 times.
Brian Alexander over at MSNBC links sex to health and longevity:
…the science isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exactly iron-clad Ã¢â‚¬â€ but evidence is accumulating that the more sex you have, the better off you are.
There is one caveat, though. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We do not have good data to show a direct connection [to all-around good health],” says Jennifer Bass, the head of information services at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, Ind. “We know that healthier people have more sexual activity. But we do not know which comes first. Does the good health make you more willing to have sex, or does the sex have a positive impact?Ã¢â‚¬Â
But while researchers try to nail down the impact on overall health, data is mounting when it comes to some specifics. Here are several potential benefits:
- Easing depression and stress
Bass says this is pretty definite. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The release from orgasm does much to calm people. It helps with sleep, and that is whether we talk about solo sex or sex with a partner,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says.
But wait, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more. A recent study of college students at the State University of New York in Albany suggests that semen acts as an antidepressant. Females in the study who were having sex without condoms (see safe sex caution, above) had fewer signs of depression than women who used condoms or abstained from sex.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“These data are consistent with the possibility that semen may antagonize depressive symptoms,Ã¢â‚¬Â the authors wrote, Ã¢â‚¬Å“and evidence which shows that the vagina absorbs a number of components of semen that can be detected in the bloodstream within a few hours of administration.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Semen … gives a shot of zinc, calcium, potassium, fructose, proteins — a veritable cornucopia of vitality!
- Relieving pain
Orgasm is a powerful pain-killer. Oxytocin, a natural chemical in the body that surges before and during climax, gets some of the credit, along with a couple of other compounds like endorphins.
According to a study by Beverly Whipple, professor emeritus at Rutgers University and a famed sexologist and author, when women masturbated to orgasm Ã¢â‚¬Å“the pain tolerance threshold and pain detection threshold increased significantly by 74.6 percent and 106.7 percent respectively.Ã¢â‚¬Â
- Boosting cardio health
Another recent study found that women who gave their men oral sex, and swallowed, had a lower risk of preeclampsia, the dangerously high blood pressure that sometimes accompanies pregnancy.
No, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not making this up. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The present study shows that oral sex and swallowing sperm is correlated with a diminished occurrence of preeclampsia,Ã¢â‚¬Â said the Dutch authors.
There have been other studies showing that sex lowers blood pressure, and might even protect against strokes because of its stress-relieving ability. A 2002 report from a large British population of men said Ã¢â‚¬Å“some protection from fatal coronary events may be an added bonusÃ¢â‚¬Â of frequent sexual intercourse.
- Countering prostate cancer
Over the past few years, several journals have published studies showing that the more ejaculations the better.
Now the Journal of the American Medical Association, no less, has reported that Ã¢â‚¬Å“high ejaculation frequency was related to decreased risk of total prostate cancer.Ã¢â‚¬Â It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter how a man climaxes — intercourse or masturbation. So next time he says, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Really, honey, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s therapy,Ã¢â‚¬Â he could be telling the truth.
- Healing wounds
Some evidence suggests sex can be rejuvenating to the point of helping wounds to heal faster. Several experiments have shown that oxytocin can help even stubborn sores, like those suffered by diabetics, to heal by regenerating certain cells.
- Fighting aging
Maybe itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the rejuvenation, maybe the happiness, maybe all of the above. One thingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s for sure: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Use it or lose itÃ¢â‚¬Â is literally true. For example, postmenopausal women often suffer from Ã¢â‚¬Å“vaginal atrophy,Ã¢â‚¬Â which is what it sounds like and can lead to all sorts of complications like urinary tract infections. WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one way to prevent it? More intercourse.
Sex is a form of exercise, after all, and like all exercise, it burns calories and can help battle the onslaught of the years. In fact, nursing home experts say they wish oldsters would have more sex.
Can sex really make you live longer? Maybe. In the same population of British men I cited earlier, researchers found a 50 percent reduction in overall mortality in the group of men who said they had the most orgasms. There was a dose response: the more orgasms, the better.
WebMD offers an article which argues that sex makes people happier than money:
Overall, the happiest folks are those getting the most sex — married people, who report 30% more between-the-sheets action than single folks. In fact, the economists calculate that a lasting marriage equates to happiness generated by getting an extra $100,000 each year. Divorce, meanwhile, translates to a happiness depletion of $66,000 annually.
Whether that hefty happiness income boost is the result of marital bliss or more sex is up for debate. But their “econometric” calculations confirm what psychologists have long known: People who consider themselves happy are usually richer in sexual activity.
- Semen appears to act as an antidepressant in women,” psychologist Gordon Gallup, PhD, tells WebMD. “In our studies, women who have unprotected sex have lower levels of depression, as measured on the gold standard evaluation tool, than those who have the same amount of sex with a condom.
“In fact, we found no difference in depression scores between women having heterosexual sex with condoms, lesbian sex, or not having sex at all,” adds Gallup, of the State University of New York in Albany.
- Whether sex is protected or not, orgasm does trigger a release of endorphins, those “feel-good” brain chemicals that elevate mood and dull pain. “But I’m not sure that’s the sole explanation, because the effects of endorphins wear off in about an hour,” says Hatfield, whose money is betting on the feel-good benefits that result from touch — especially with a spouse or other trusted lover.
“We know that people who touch and are receptive to touch are more likely to be happy and have fewer problems with depression and anxiety,” he tells WebMD. “Especially in a committed relationship or marriage, sex provides more opportunity for touch. I think orgasm is Mother Nature’s icing on the cake, a reason to make you want to go back for more the next time.”
- Associated Content – How Sex Keeps You Healthy
- Self Help Magazine – Good Sex is Good For You
- Prevention – How Love Keeps You Healthy
- Mayo Clinic – Intimacy and aging: Tips for sexual health and happiness
- BBC – Sexual Health, Sex Therapy
Finally folks, sex between consenting, caring adults should be guilt-free; the information here should not be used to coerce your partner into caving in more often (if that is necessary you have relationship issues to work through). Additionally, you should not bury your own natural desires, or criticize your partners. Humans were bestowed with a natural sex drive and it propagates the species, makes us happy, and keeps us healthy.