The Health Benefits of Sex

kissing in France

Alyssa Royse outlines seven unexpected health benefits from having sex.

Which came first, a happy, healthy body, or a happy, healthy sex life? Or did they come together?

It’s hard to tell for sure, but there is an increasing body of research suggesting that a healthy sex life does correlate to a healthy mind and body.

And no, you don’t need a partner in order to achieve the beneficial bounty of sexual pleasure. There are just as many benefits to enjoying your own sexuality as there are to enjoying it with a trusted partner (or a few trusted partners).

1. Stress Relief and Improvement in Depression Symptoms 

Jennifer Bass heads the Information Services at The Kinsey Institute, and says that the research shows a clear correlation between sex and happiness. She says, “The release from orgasm does much to calm people,” and even helps with sleep.

This is backed up by a recent study of college students at the State University of New York in Albany that shows antidepressant qualities in semen. Females in the study who were having sex without condoms showed fewer signs of depression than women who used condoms or abstained from sex.

According to the researchers, “these data are consistent with the possibility that semen may antagonize depressive symptoms, 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.”

2. Boosts Your Immune System

Regular sexual activity has been shown to increase the antibody immunoglobulin, which protects you from things like the common cold and other easily transmitted viral infections.

In a Wilkes University study, 112 college students kept track of how often they had sex, and provided saliva samples throughout the study. The students who had sex twice a week had higher levels of immunoglobulin than others.  So, sex not only keeps you warm, it might also keep you from getting a cold.

3. Sex Lowers Blood Pressure

People who have sex regularly are about 65% less likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t.  In a 2006 study at the University of Paisley, Scotland, people who had sex at least once during a 2-week period had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.

Now, this only seemed to hold up for people who had sex with a partner, and not for those who had a quickie with themselves. No one is clear on why, though other evidence suggests that it has to do with Oxytocin, a hormone that is often called “the cuddle hormone.” Oxytocin is associated with intimacy and bonding, and it’s possible that that sense of trust and connectedness with a partner is what lowers your blood pressure.

4. Sex Reduces Pain

Oxytocin does more than make you want to snuggle. It’s also a powerful pain-reducer. A German study found that sexual activity relieved the pain of migraines and cluster headaches for up to a third of patients.

“There’s a (portion) of patients with migraines, about one-third, who experience relief from a migraine attack by sexual activity,” said study researcher Stefan Evers, a neurologist and headache specialist at the University of Münster in Germany. Evers studied 1,000 patients with headaches, gathering data about sexual activity and headaches. 60 percent of migraine sufferers experienced relief, with the majority of those patients reporting a moderate or complete pain relief.

But it doesn’t stop at headaches. A 1994 study showed that Oxytocin was an effective analgesic against low-back pain. Though they were talking about direct injections, (and as creative as we are, we’re still not sure how you’d pull that one off,) but they summed up their findings to state that ” These results suggest that oxytocin induces analgesia in low back pain involving the endogenous opiate peptide system and may be effective and safe in acute and chronic low back pain.”

5. Sex Helps You Sleep Better

Oxytocin released in the brain naturally promotes sleep. A 2003 study in the journal Regulatory Peptides, explains that oxytocin counters the effects of cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone. According to the study, “it has a calming effect, it leaves you feeling tranquil and loving, and certainly that helps our path to sleep.”

6. Better Prostate Health and Reduction of Prostate Cancer

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who had 21 or more ejaculations a month were less likely to get prostate cancer than those who had four to seven ejaculations per month. No partner required!

According to Web MD, ” Overall, an average of 21 or more ejaculations a month during a man’s lifetime decreased the risk of prostate cancer later in life by 33%. And each increase of three ejaculations per week during a man’s lifetime was associated with a 15% reduction in prostate cancer risk.”

If you want to up the ante on the health benefits of ejaculation for men, it’s time to explore prostate massage. According to Charlie Glickman, who literally wrote the book on prostate massage, ” the prostate is full of microscopic glands that can get clogged. By massaging it, those blockages get squeezed out, into the urethra. Some experts speculate that by clearing them out, you can reduce your risk for prostate health problems. Although ejaculation also squeezes fluids out of the prostate, it might not be strong enough to do the job if anything is trapped, so massage may be more effective.”

7. Better Oral… Health?

Even kissing is good for you! “Swapping spit” increases saliva in your moth, and saliva does lots of important things for your body, including helping to keep the bacteria in your mouth balanced, which prevents cavities and improves ovarall health.

According to The Mayo Clinic, ” Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease. Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases. ”

Now, go out there and enjoy some sex… not just for fun, but also for your health. Of course you should remember a few, hopefully obvious, points. Sex is supposed to be about pleasure, which means that if you’re doing it with someone else, consent and communication are the key to making sure is pleasurable for everyone involved. And, of course, practice safer sex!

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Written in partnership with Forta

 Photo:Flickr/Guillaume Paumier

About Alyssa Royse

Alyssa is freelance writer, speaker, fitness trainer and personal coach living in Seattle with her husband and their 3 daughters. They own Rocket CrossFit where she spends most of her time training men and women in ways that are as much emotional as physical. She can also be found on her eponymous blog, where she pontificates about food, family, politics and the Seattle rain. Yes, she would love to speak at your event, host a workshop or write something for you. Just ask.


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  2. Number 1 sounds like a load of crap. At the risk of contracting STIs or becoming pregnant, just for some idea that unprotected sex will help depression. Yeah right

    • Yeah, that struck me as a little odd, too, especially since there’s another explanation that makes a lot more sense.

      While I’m sure there was some overlap, it seems to me that a much greater percentage of women in the no-condom group were in committed, monogamous relationships than those in the condom group, because they would be less concerned about STIs. If they were on hormonal birth control already, they might just not bother.

      I can easily believe that being in a committed relationship is a buffer to depression. It makes a lot more sense to me than semen have anti-depressive effects all on its own.

  3. This might very well be true but there a lot of ethical and logistic problems with making sex more widespread.

  4. “A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who had 21 or more ejaculations a month were less likely to get prostate cancer than those who had four to seven ejaculations per month. No partner required!”

    So, we are talking about slightly less than one per day. While no partner is required, one (female) is highly preferred and desired!

    But, for most American men, I think we are shit out of luck. Even the married men. I consider myself fortunate. I have 4-5 per week with my girlfriend. But then I was screwed over by my ex wife for 10+ years.

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