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Sex And Its Positive Effects On The Immune System, The Brain, And Pain Management

Last updated April 15, 2015

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Research has shown a connection between sex and better physical health, lessened stress levels, enhanced mental health, and reduction in pain.


It is common to naturally associate sex with the feelings of pleasure and intimacy. But what you might not recognize is that sex is linked to considerable health benefits that can have a substantial outcome on your life. Research has shown a connection between sex and better physical health, lessened stress levels, enhanced mental health, and reduction in pain.

Boosts Immune System:

It has been shown that having sex at least once a week increases the levels of IgA by about 33%, an antibody responsible for boosting the immune system. This increase in antibody allows the immune system to better defend against infections and viruses. Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania designed a study in 2004 that tested college students’ saliva for IgA. The participants who reported having sex at least once a week had higher concentrations of the antibody than those who reported having sex less than once a week or practicing abstinence. 

Reduces Stress and Anxiety:

Research has also suggested a correlation between consistent sexual intercourse and reduced stress and anxiety levels. Researchers at Ohio State University released a study in 2010 that identified a correlation between daily intercourse for two weeks and cell growth in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an area of the brain that is responsible for memory and very susceptible to stress effects. Sexual intercourse stimulated growth in this region, strengthening the brain’s ability to respond to stress and keep it under control. It was also found that anxiety-like behavior was reduced after chronic sexual experience. 

Relieves Pain:

Oxytocin, commonly known as ‘the love hormone’, is a hormone in our bodies that rises in response to sexual activity. When oxytocin is released during orgasm, it starts to create an emotional bond between partners. The rise in oxytocin levels and feeling of security during sex allows for the release of endorphins in our system. Endorphins are known as the body’s natural painkillers. When released, endorphins signal the brain to reduce our perception of pain, similar to the mechanism when morphine is administered. Therefore, having sex induces a pain-relieving effect when endorphins are released.

The result from engaging in sexual intercourse with your partner has shown to be beneficial for both your physical and mental health. The studies that have proven this notion to be true, however, all consisted of participants who had continuous sexual intercourse to achieve these benefits. Talk to your healthcare provider about your current health and the amount of sex that would be healthy for your body.

Written by Melissa Pillote

References:

Charnetski, C.J. & Brennan, F.X. (2004). Sexual Frequency and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA). Psychological Reports, 94(3), pp. 839-844. Retrieved from http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/15217036

Leuner, B., Glasper, E.R., Gould, E. (2010). Sexual Experience Promotes Adult Neurogenesis in the Hippocampus Despite an Initial Elevation in Stress Hormones. PLoS ONE, 5(7), e11597. Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0011597

Sharma, A. & Verma, D. (2014). Endorphins: Endogenous Opioid in Human Cells. World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 4(1), pp. 357-374.

Meston, C.M. & Buss, D.M. (2007). Why Humans Have Sex. Arch Sex Behav, 36, pp. 477-507. Retrieved from http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/group/MestonLAB/Publications/whyhavesex.pdf

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 15, 2015
Last updated: April 15, 2015