What Are The Health Benefits Of Sex?

Brain & Nerve
Behavioral & Mental Health
Contributed byMaulik P. Purohit MD MPHAug 01, 2017

It is common to naturally associate sex with the feelings of pleasure and intimacy. To the surprise of many, 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, an antibody responsible for boosting the immune system, by about 33%. This increase in antibody allows the immune system to be more defensive against infections and viruses. Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania designed a study in 2004 that tested college student’s 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 being abstinent, indicating improved immunity.

Stress and Anxiety Relief

Research has also suggested a correlation between consistent sexual intercourse and reduced stress and anxiety levels. 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 maintaining stress levels. 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.

Pain Relief

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 amongst 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. 

Increased Self-Esteem

A survey compiled by the University of Texas in 2007 compiled a list of 237 reasons that an individual chooses to have sex. When asking college students why they had sex, some of the most common reasons were attraction, love, physical pleasure, or affection. Others included a higher societal status and enhanced reputation. These frequent chosen responses indicated that self-esteem is a benefit attained from sexual intercourse.

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.

Additional Resources:

Charnetski CJ, Brennan FX. Sexual Frequency and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA). Psychological Reports. 2004; 94(3): 839-844. 

Leuner B, Glasper ER, Gould E. Sexual Experience Promotes Adult Neurogenesis in the Hippocampus Despite an Initial Elevation in Stress Hormones. PLoS ONE. 2010;5(7):e11597. 

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

Meston CM, Buss DM. Why Humans Have Sex. Arch Sex Behav. 2007;36:477-507. 

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Gott, M., & Hinchliff, S. (2003). How important is sex in later life? The views of older people. Social science & medicine, 56(8), 1617-1628.

Pescatello, L. S., Murphy, D., & Costanzo, D. (2000). Low-intensity physical activity benefits blood lipids and lipoproteins in older adults living at home.Age and Ageing, 29(5), 433-439.

Brody, S. (2010). The relative health benefits of different sexual activities.The journal of sexual medicine, 7(4pt1), 1336-1361.

Widdice, L., Cornell, J. L., Liang, M. W., & Halpern-Felsher, B. L. (2005). Teens tell us the risks and benefits of having sex. Journal of Adolescent Health, 36(2), 107-108.

Levin, R. J. (2007). Sexual activity, health and well-being–the beneficial roles of coitus and masturbation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 22(1), 135-148.

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Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

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