How many times a week do you have sex? Okay, maybe we need to back it up a bit: How many times a month do you have sex? If you can't answer that one, you definitely need to read this. How about this question: Do you enjoy the sex that you have? Are you sexually satisfied in your relationship? Here's an even better one: how often do you orgasm?
What if I told you that having sex, actually enjoying it, and especially orgasming multiple times a week is related to numerous health benefits, emotional well-being, and even a longer life! Would you put down the computer and head off to the bedroom?
Well, as you might have guessed, an active sex life is associated with a lot of great things, both physical and psychological. Let's start off with some of the physical perks:
1. Heart Disease
A 10 year longitudinal study of men living in South Whales found that men who had sex 2 or more times a week also had a lower incidence of fatal heart disease events than those who had sex less often (even after adjusting for age and other risk factors associated with heart disease) (Smith, Frankel, & Yarnell, 1997). Other studies have discovered a significant relationship between a hormone released during orgasm (DHEA) and a reduction in the risk for heart disease (Feldman et al., 1998). Furthermore, in a study of Israeli women, those who had a history of sexual dissatisfaction (usually due to a partner's impotence or illness) had a higher history of heart attacks than those who were more sexually satisfied (Abramov, 1976).
2. Prostate Cancer
Leitzmann and colleagues (2004) found that men who ejaculated 21 or more times a month (that's a little over 5 times a week!) had a decreased risk of total and organ-confined prostate cancer! According to the authors, this is likely due to the fact that ejaculation has been shown to flush out carcinogenic substances from the prostate.
3. Breast Cancer
In France, Le and colleagues (1989) examined frequency of sexual intercourse among women. A higher risk of breast cancer was associated with minimal sexual experiences, which was defined as less than once a month! In addition, a case-control study in Greece found that men who experienced more orgasms during adulthood had a lower incidence of breast cancer than men who orgasmed less (Petridou et al., 2000).
In a study of 2,012 American women, sexual activity and orgasm during menstruation was linked to lower incidence of endometriosis (Meaddough et al., 2002).
5. Physical Appearance
In 1998, Weeks and James conducted a study where they had a group of judges evaluate the ages of over 3,500 men and women. Individuals with an active sex life were rated as much younger than their actual age. Specifically, those who were rated as 7 to 12 years younger than their actual age also reported having sex 3 or more times a week.
Orgasms have also been shown to help people sleep. In particular, oxytocin and endorphins, which are released during orgasms, are said to act as a sedative (Odent, 1999).
7. Longer Life!
Researchers followed 252 individuals over a 25 year period, examining factors that contributed to a longer life (Palmore, 1982). Over the 25 year period, sexual intercourse was consistently related to longevity. Men who reported higher frequency of sex lived longer than men who had sex less often. Interestingly, frequency was not as important for women. Instead, women who reported more enjoyment and satisfaction with the sex they had were more likely to live longer than women who were dissatisfied. So, while a man's longevity was related to quantity, it was all about quality for women. Another study (Smith et al., 1997) examined frequency of orgasm and death risk in South Whales. This study had participants take medical exams, report sexual activity, and disclose other demographic information (i.e. social class, age, race, smoking status, etc.). After controlling for medical, physical, and social variables that may contribute to mortality, researchers found a strong relationship between frequency of orgasm and risk of death, with more orgasms equaling a lower risk of death.
Now, onto the mental benefits...
1. Mental Illness & Depression
Stiefelhagen (1994) discovered that individuals who were psychiatric patients benefited from having sex. Specifically, engaging in sexual intercourse decreased the need for psychiatric medications. A 2002 study of 300 sexually active college women found that exposure to semen (sex without a condom) was associated with lower levels of depression when compared to women who sometimes used condoms, women who always used condoms, and women who didn't have sex (Gallup et al., 2002).
Increased levels of oxytocin (which is released during orgasm) has been shown to reduce stress (Weeks, 2002). Lower levels of oxytocin are associated with anxiety disorders. Furthermore, Charnetski and Brennan (2001) found that sex with and without orgasm can reduce stress.
Again, when oxytocin is released during orgasm, feelings of affection, intimacy, and closeness with a sexual partner increase (Odent, 1999; Weeks, 2002). Masturbation can also increase intimacy. A 1991 study of young married women found that those who reported masturbating also reported greater marital satisfaction (Hurlbert & Whittaker, 1991).
In a study of women, Hurlbert and Whittaker (1991) found that positive sexual experiences and accepting one's sexuality and sexual desires may increase self-esteem. Additionally, the researchers discovered an association between masturbation and self-esteem, with women scoring higher on self-esteem scales when they masturbated more often.
5. Overall Quality of Life
Sexual expereinces and sexual satisfaction have long been associated with quality of life. For instance, Laumann et al. (1994) surveyed over 3,500 men and women. They found a statistically significant relationship between reports of happiness and frequency of orgasm. Additionally, a 2002 study discovered strong relationships between sexual satisfaction and quality of life, with individuals who reported higher sexual satisfaction also experiencing a higher quality of life (Weeks, 2002). In 1988, over 4,000 American women were surveyed about their sense of well-being and their interest in sex (Warner & Bancroft). Researchers found a strong link between the two variables, with women reporting heightened sexual desire during times of increased well-being.
I know, I know: this all sounds AMAZING! Before you get overly excited, however, I think we need to have a brief discussion about correlational research. When individuals do this type of research, they cannot determine which variable is the cause and which is the effect. They can only say that there is a relationship or association between the two variables. For example, if you hear that people who shop are also happy, you know that there is a relationship between shopping and happiness. However, you don't know whether shopping causes people to be happy or whether happiness causes people to shop; both seem valid. For correlational research to be more rigorous, researchers must control for any other variables that might impact the strength of the relationship between the two variables under question. Back to the example, you might say that people who shop are happy because most people who shop are also wealthy, which could additionally contribute to happiness. A good researcher would control for this variable (i.e. wealth) by asking participants to report their income and seeing if the majority of shoppers were also wealthy. If wealth doesn't matter, then the relationship between happiness and shopping is considered stronger. The problem is that we just don't know which came first: the shopping or the happiness. This does not mean that correlational studies are worthless. Quite the contrary. Significant relationships found between two variables can provide us with very important knowledge. You just need to use your critical thinking skills when reading about this type of research.
*Note: Only some of the studies cited above were correlational in nature.*
Now you've read this entire post, but you still...
- ...don't have a significant other: As you've probably noticed, a lot of the research cited above dealt with number of orgasms as opposed to actual frequency of sexual intercourse. So, you can masturbate and still reap many of the benefits discussed above.
- ... don't like the sex you're having: One of the best ways to improve your sex life is to open the lines of communication between you and your partner. Disclosing your sexual likes and dislikes to your mate can improve sexual and relationship satisfaction, bring you closer as a couple, increase feelings of intimacy and trust between the two of you, and even increase pleasure during sexual activities. You could also try new sexual positions if you don't like your current sex life. Cosmopolitan Magazine's website has a column they call the "Sex Position of the Week" that could be helpful. Trying something new may increase your sexual satisfaction.
- ... can't seem to get in the mood: Try these suggestions. Still need help? You could read the poem you wrote for your mate last week, entice your partner by giving him/her a sensual massage, or surprise your partner with some sexy lingerie.
- ... don't have enough time: Make time! Sex is an important part of our lives. Even if making time to you means once a week, you should always make time to share these intimate (and very beneficial) moments with your partner.
Whatever you do today, try and make time for sex tonight!
- Abramov, L. A. (1976). Sexual life and sexual frigidity among women developing acute myocardial infarction. Psychosomatic Medicine, 38, 418-425.
- Charnetski, C. J., & Brennan, F. X. (2001). Feeling good is good for you: How pleasure can boost your immune system and lengthen your life. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc.
- Feldman, H. A. et al. (1998). Low dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and heart disease in middle-aged men: Cross-sectional results from the Massachusetts male aging study. Annals of Epidemiology, 8, 217- 228.
- Gallup, G. et al. (2002). Does semen have antidepressant properties? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 289- 293.
- Hurlbert, D. F., & Whittaker, K. E. (1991). The role of masturbation in marital and sexual satisfaction: A comparative study of female masturbators and nonmasturbators. Journal of Sex Education & Therapy, 17, 272- 282.
- Laumann, E. O. et al. (1994). The social organization of sexuality- Sexual practice in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago.
- Le, M. G. et al. (1989). Characteristics of reproductive life and of breast cancer in a case-control study of young Nulliparous women. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 42, 1227-1233.
- Leitzmann, M. F. et al. (2004). Ejaculation frequency and subsequent risk of prostate cancer. JAMA, 291, 1578- 1586.
- Meaddough, E. L. et al. (2002). Sexual activity, orgasm, and tampon use are associated with a deceased risk for endometriosis. Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, 53, 163- 169.
- Odent, M. (1999). The scientification of love. London, UK: Free Association Books Limited.
- Palmore, E. (1982). Predictors of the longevity difference: A twenty-five year follow-up. The Gerontologist, 22, 513- 518.
- Petridou, E. et al. (2000). Endocrine correlates of male breast cancer risk: A case control study in Athens, Greece. British Journal of Cancer, 83, 1234-1237.
- Smith, D. A. et al. (2005). Abdominal diameter index: A more powerful anthropometric measure of prevalent coronary heart disease risk in adult males. Diabetes Obesity Metabolism, 7, 370-380.
- Warner, P., & Bancroft, J. (1988). Mood, sexuality, oral contraceptives, and the menstrual cycle. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 32, 417- 427.
- Weeks, D., & James, J. (1998). Secrets of the super young. New York: Berkley Books.
- Weeks, D. J. (2002). Sex for the amture adult: Health, self-esteem and countering ageist stereotypes. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17, 231- 240.
Other resources for improving your sex life: