Ten Health Benefits of a Healthy Sex Life

Medical Author: Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

That we live in what can seem like an oversexed society is difficult to dispute given the extensive, sometimes exploitative media attention given to sexiness and having sex. However, given what is now understood as the many health benefits of a robust sex life, it behooves all of us to pay attention to this highly personal but important topic. While the list provided here by no means describes every helpful aspect of sex, it will hopefully inspire those who read it to have the healthiest sex life possible. Benefits of a healthy love life include:

1. Better Relationships

Oxytocin, which is often referred to as the bonding hormone, is best known for its increase during breastfeeding and is thought to enhance the bond between mothers and their babies. It turns out that levels of this hormone also increase during intimate acts between adults. This is apparently true whether the hormone is generated by having sex, hugging, or other relationship enhancing behaviors. It therefore enhances bonding between everyone from to friends, parent and child or adults, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.

2. Lower Stress Levels

As increased levels of oxytocin, as are generated by sexual activity, tend to decrease anxiety and pain sensations, stress levels associated with anxiety and pain have also been found to fall as a result.

3. Better Self-Perception of Feeling Healthy

Since lower levels of cortisol (considered a stress hormone) and higher levels of oxytocin are associated with higher feelings of well-being, it stands to reason that activities like sexual intercourse that enhance those changes make people feel better, no matter what their life is otherwise like.

4. Lower Blood Pressure and Fewer Strokes

Sexual activity has been found to increase the level of oxytocin, particularly in women. That in turn seems to lessen how strongly the body reacts to stress. Among other things, oxytocin decreases how narrowed blood vessels become in reaction to stress, thereby decreasing blood pressure and strokes that can be caused by high blood pressure.

5. Improved Functioning of the Immune System

The negative effects that excessive stress can have on the immune system are well understood. Having sex on a regular basis decreases stress, and adds to its credibility as an booster to the body's ability to fight infection.

6. Less Often Cognitively Disabled With Age

The aerobic exercise involved in having sex can help slow aging of the brain, helping to prevent everything from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to full blown dementia.

7. Less Physically Disabled With Age

Even for individuals who are already disabled, those with a more active sex life seem to be less likely to suffer further disability as they age when living with a spouse, compared to already disabled persons with a less satisfying sex life.

8. Fewer Heart Attacks

The lower reaction to stress that is associated with higher oxytocin levels translates into lower risk of heart attacks.

9. Lower Risk of Certain Cancers

Men who ejaculate more often have been found to have a lower risk of prostate cancer.

10. Longer Life

Studies have found that overall health is positively associated with being interested in having sex, engaging in sexual activity, and the quality thereof in persons in middle age and beyond. The reverse seems to be true as well, in that poor health is associated with having low interest, frequency, and quality of sex.

The take home point about the health benefits of sex is to be safe, have fun, and know that it is good for your health throughout your life.


Sex-Drive Killers: The Causes of Low Libido See Slideshow

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Ahlskog JE, Geda YE, Graff-Radford NR, Petersen RC. Physical exercise as a preventive or disease-modifying treatment of dementia and brain aging. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2011 September; 86(9): 876-884.

Diamond LM. What does sexual orientation orient? A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love and sexual desire. Psychological Review 2003; 110(1): 173-192.

Onder G, Penninx BWJH, Guralnik JM, Jones H, Fried LP, Pahor M, Williamson JD. Sexual satisfaction and risk of disability in older women. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2003; 64: 1177-1182.

Grewen KM, Light KC. Plasma oxytocin is related to lower cardiovascular and sympathetic reactivity to stress. Biological Psychology 2011 July; 87(3): 340-349.

Hamilton LD, Rellini AH, Meston CM. Cortisol, sexual arousal and affect in response to sexual stimuli. Journal of Sexual Medicine 2008; 5: 2111-2118.

Huppert FA. Mental capital and wellbeing: making the most of ourselves in the 21st century. Government Office for Science, The Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project 2008 September.

Lee HJ, Macbeth AH, Pagani JH, Young WS. Oxytocin: the great facilitator of life. Progressive Neurobiology 2009 June; 88(2): 127-151.

Leitzmann MF, Platz EA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Giovannucci E. Ejaculation frequency and subsequent risk of prostate cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association 2004; 291(13): 1578-1586.

Segerstrom SC, Miller GE. Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychology Bulletin 2004 July; 130(4): 601-630.

Tessler Lindau S, Gavrilova N. Sex, health, and years of sexually active life gained due to good health: evidence from two US population based cross sectional surveys of ageing. British Medical Journal 2010; 340: c810.