Sex, and its synonyms, is one of the most commonly searched words on Google.1
This query often throws back results relating to STDs (sexually-transmitted diseases), techniques, birth control, and pornography.
Yet, very few online resources speak about how sex is actually beneficial for health—both physiological and psychological.
So, to redress the situation—here it is.
Consider this your complete guide to the scientifically proven health benefits of sex.
How Often Should I Have Sex?
Sex, usually, is a rather physical activity.
As such, it’s akin to going to the gym—the more frequently you work out, the more impressive the returns.
Hence, the physiological health benefits of sex are elevated as you become increasingly active between the sheets. Ideally, you should, therefore, have sex as often as is practically possible—providing it remains enjoyable, and both partners are enthused.
Psychologically, however, frequency isn’t so vital.
Studies show that couples who have sex once a week are happier with their relationships and possess a higher feeling of well-being than those who have intercourse less often. But, the research also indicates that making love more than once every seven days doesn’t elevate psychological rewards any further than this level.2
So, at the very least—you should be having a bedroom workout once a week—to benefit the mind and body.
I know what you’re thinking—how often do “normal” people have sex?
Like penis size—men often over-exaggerate their sexual frequency and conquests.
Your buddies at the bar may swear that they’re at it like rabbits every morning and evening—making you feel somewhat inadequate. But, the chances are they’re probably stretching the truth somewhat.
Research shows that sex frequency declines with age, and is often far less than what people imagine to be the norm.
A study from the University of Chicago on American Sexual Behavior indicates that on average men between 18-29 have intercourse 84 times per year (1.6 times per week). Once in their 40s, it drops to 63.5 times annually (1.2 times per week) and by the time they reach 70 years of age, just 10 times per annum (less than once a month).3
So, even men in their sexual prime apparently struggle to reach a couple of bedroom sessions in a week. Therefore, don’t be disheartened.
While you could attribute the reasons for the decline to many factors—the most likely is a reduction in libido due to falling testosterone levels.
Why Do I Feel Like Having Sex?
As a man—you’re genetically wired for sex.
Possibly as an evolutionary trait to encourage procreation—lovemaking is often on your mind. Scientists discovered that men think about sex nearly twice as frequently as women (34 times per day as opposed to 19 for the ladies).4
The drive for sex, known as libido, is usually broken down into three separate characteristics.
Within the body, your brain primarily powers sex drive—known as the mesolimbic dopamine pathway.5
In short—sex, through the production of dopamine, provides a feeling of reward. The body, craving this satisfaction, looks towards sex as a route to gratification.
Furthermore, numerous neurotransmitters and hormones are required to power this sex-drive, the most common ones being:
For men, the most powerful of these is testosterone. As levels of this hormone decline with age, treatment in the form of injections or testosterone boosting supplements is often used to restore sexual desire.
Psychological and Social Libido
Numerous psychological factors can have a dramatic impact on our libido, often lowering our sex-drive, including:
Seeking to solve the cause of these issues can help to boost sexual desire.
Illness and disease can also influence our sexual appetites.
Ensuring that your libido is at optimum levels means that you’re in top form to enjoy the health benefits of sex.
The Physical Health Benefits of Sex
The advantages of well-being that intercourse can provide are numerous. Below I’ve put together the scientifically proven physical health benefits of sex.
Stronger Immune System
Researchers have shown that enjoying lovemaking once or twice a week is the ideal frequency to elevate the immune system.20
It appears that this level of sexual activity heightens IgA (immunoglobulin A) levels—antibodies that identify bacteria and viruses and prevent them from causing illness.21
Experts have proposed that this could be a survival instinct by the body. Theoretically, the intimacy involved in sexual activity makes you more prone to infectious diseases than those who abstain.
Hence, the body responds by elevating the immune system’s capabilities to protect against infection.
If you’re currently partnerless, and unable to have sex, it seems you can achieve the same IgA elevation by petting a dog.22
Like a drug, the more sex you have, the more you want.
Even if your libido is low, push yourself into making the effort to have sex. The health benefits of sex actually include elevating sexual desire, meaning that you’re more likely to have intercourse again—the law of increasing returns.
The reason for this is simple—sex elevates testosterone levels.23
Many of the health benefits of sex are related to sexual function.
Testosterone is an androgen—it’s the primary male sex hormone. Getting busy beneath the sheets increases its production, which consequently provides sexual benefits, including:
- Elevated libido.24
- Improved erection quality.25
- Healthy testicular size.26
- Heightened sperm volume, quality, motility, and fertility.27
Lowers Blood Pressure
One of the health benefits of sex can help the majority of men.
Nearly half the adult population of the United States suffers from hypertension (high blood pressure). Luckily, the health benefits of sex can prevent you from becoming part of this statistic.28
Michigan State University scientists discovered that sex, especially in those of more mature years, can reduce the incidence of high blood pressure.29
Furthermore, it appears that you don’t even have to get naked to enjoy the blood pressure benefits of intimacy. Experts explain that even the act of hugging and bodily contact can help to reduce the risk of hypertension.30
High blood pressure isn’t just an ailment that can promote cardiovascular disease—it also impacts your sex life.
Lowers Heart Attack Risk
Even gentle lovemaking promotes an increase in the heart rate—similar to exercise.
Naturally, the more vigorous and extended your sex-sessions—the greater the effect it has on the heart.
Researchers have discovered that men who have intercourse at least twice a week are 45 percent less likely to develop CVD (cardiovascular disease) than those who have sex less frequently.32
Even if you have suffered from heart disease in the past, scientists believe that sex is a safe form of exercise.33
Counts as Exercise
As intercourse both elevates the heart rate and increases breathing frequency—it can be considered a form of aerobic exercise.
What’s more—these workout health benefits of sex are something you’re likely to look forward to—as opposed to monotonous sessions spent on a treadmill.
In addition to raising aerobic fitness—being busy in the bedroom can also improve muscle tone.
While sexual positions will affect which muscles you work—generally the “thrusting” movement places stress on the glutes and abdominals—elevating definition.
Your libido is high—so you give your partner that look which says—let’s get down to some serious sexual action.
Unfortunately, they indicate that they have an awful headache and therefore aren’t in the mood.
If that’s the case, it’s time to educate them about the health benefits of sex—by giving your partner some German scientific research papers to read (although that may also act as a turn-off).
Scientists from the University of Münster discovered that those people who were suffering from headaches, and then indulged in sex, found that their pain was alleviated in 60 percent of cases.36
May Reduce the Chance of Prostate Cancer
My advice for the ultimate anti-cancer health benefits of sex—ejaculate as often as possible.
Studies show that men who ejaculate at least 21 times every four weeks are 33 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who reach orgasm seven times per month.39
So far, research hasn’t conclusively proven why this is the case. Scientists suggest that the frequent expulsion of semen may remove carcinogens. Alternatively, experts have proposed that ejaculation drains prostate fluid—preventing the buildup of crystals which may cause cancer.
Even, if you’re currently without a sexual partner, then enjoy self-gratification. It has the same cancer-preventing effects.
The numerous health benefits of sex mentioned above (lowered blood pressure, healthier heart, improved fitness, etc.) would suggest that you’re likely to live longer.
A deduction that’s backed by science.
Scientists studied 918 men (aged 45 to 59) over a period of 10 years. They discovered that the mortality rate in men who orgasmed frequently was 50 percent lower than those who didn’t regularly ejaculate.40
Furthermore, the health benefits of sex may include looking younger for longer.
A 10-year study, including 3500 American and European men and women, explored the ability of sex to offset the signs of aging. Those who engaged in sex three or more times per week were considered to look 7 to 12 years younger than their actual age.41
Improved blood flow and therefore oxygen to the skin and muscles enhances appearance giving you a youthful glow. Additionally, sex reduces cortisol levels which can otherwise inhibit collagen production—the protein which provides elasticity to the skin.42, 43
Good for Your Teeth
As discussed earlier, one of the health benefits of sex is that testosterone levels are elevated.
Research has demonstrated that the level of free testosterone is directly correlated with calcium absorption—the more you have, the more calcium that’s available for the body’s use.44
This increase in bioavailability can help to improve tooth health and strength.45
The Psychological Health Benefits of Sex
The health benefits of sex aren’t exclusive to physiology. Taking care of business in the bedroom elevates our mental well-being too.
Being a man in the 21st century is tough.
Work, family, finance, and the increasing requirement to “look good” place us under stress.
The good news is that one of the major health benefits of sex includes lowering this overwhelming pressure.
Experts explain that intimacy with a partner—both physical and emotional—can reduce stress.46
Further evidence indicates that for the ultimate relief—have intercourse. Men engaging in penetrative vaginal sex illustrated lowered stress signals than those who had no sex at all or those who masturbated.47
Unfortunately, depression can lead us to want less sex. This then can become something of a vicious circle—less intercourse can cause strain on relationships pushing us further into a pit of despair.48
However, the health benefits of sex include lowering depressive symptoms. So, if you’re feeling down, respond by having intercourse.
The effects are twofold. Firstly, sex elevates the “happy” hormones and neuropeptides of dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. Secondly, it lowers cortisol levels—a hormone partly responsible for depression.49, 50
Even if you’re not down and melancholic—the health benefits of sex for depression also elevate our day-to-day mood.
A 2016 study explains that men and women who engage in frequent sexual activity were happier and had a greater sense of well-being than those who had less regular intercourse.51
Furthermore, the health benefits of sex include lowering anger and aggression.
Experts have explained that men engaging in frequent intercourse, especially when combined with a monogamous relationship, exhibit: 52
- Reduced anger.
- Lowered violent tendencies.
- Avoidance of drugs and alcohol.
- Reduced risk of incarceration.
The slumber-related health benefits of sex go much further than just enabling you to sleep soundly during the night.
Sleep is the time when the body repairs and rebuilds—lack of this vital element in your life can lead to hypertension, heart disease, memory loss, and weight gain.53
Furthermore, the REM (rapid eye movement) period of slumber is when your body produces testosterone. Too little shut-eye and those reserves are going to plummet.54
One of the most significant health benefits of sex is that it can boost self-esteem.
Clinical papers from 2014 explain that both men and women engaging in frequent intercourse—even casual relationships—exhibit a higher level of perceived well-being and elevated self-esteem than those lacking in sexual action.57
Furthermore, these health benefits of sex provide increasing returns.
People who have a better self-image are more likely to participate in even more sexual activity—elevating the benefits even further.58
Incredibly, the health benefits of sex include boosting cognition—specifically in improving memory.
A recent (2019) study examined the effects of sex on the brain function of men and women between the ages of 50-83. It demonstrated that the greater the frequency of intercourse during the week—the higher the participants scored on memory tests.59
Even if you lack a sexual partner—you can still enjoy the health benefits of sex.
The act of purely thinking about sex (which, as already discussed, you do on average 34 times a day) heightens cognitive ability. In 2009, scientists discovered that having sex on the brain promotes analytical thinking.
So, if you have a problem that needs solving—spend a few minutes imagining sexual activity then concentrate on the issue in hand.60
Relationship Health Benefits of Sex
Naturally, we assume that those people who are having regular sex in a relationship are more likely to be happier and more content than those who abstain.
However, groundbreaking research in 2017 indicated that it isn’t so much the physical act that leads to happiness and satisfaction between partners—but the affection that it promotes.61
The study examined 106 couples, with an average age of 25 years. It agreed with previous studies that the elevated sense of well-being and self-image was an influential factor in creating long-lasting relationships.
However, it also discovered that after sex, bonding was elevated—promoting heightened kissing, touching, and cuddling—which further bolstered the strength of the partnerships.
This research is backed up by further studies, which indicate that married couples who don’t enjoy frequent intercourse are more likely to divorce than those with an active bedroom life.62
Furthermore, the health benefits of sex in a relationship also include staving off the risk of angina and ulcers.
Studies show that men who feel loved and supported by their wives are less likely to suffer from angina—even when they were considered “high risk” due to having raised blood pressure or being mature in age.63
Additionally, research on 8458 men illustrated that they exhibited an increased likelihood to develop duodenal ulcers when they: 64
- Were encountering family issues.
- Feeling unloved and unsupported by their wife or partner.
- Repressed their feelings of anger.
Makes Fertilization Easier
While procreation may not feature in a strict list of health benefits of sex—frequency is something to be considered when planning on having a family.
The commonly held belief was that the quantity of sex wasn’t as important as the timing of that intercourse. The theory is that the most fertile time for a woman is the five days prior to, and including, the day of ovulation.65
Furthermore, scare stories abounded in that too much intercourse was a prohibiting factor—in that it lowered sperm fertility. The expert’s suggested that a three-day course of abstinence from sex elevated semen quality.66
However, more recent research has proven that sperm is at its most fertile after just one day of celibacy. Thus meaning the ideal times to have intercourse are every other day during your partner’s fertile “window”.67
One further tip.
While hitting the fertile period and having sex every other day is the optimum path to conceiving—try to avoid being too regimented.
A strict intercourse plan can place stress on both parties—which can both limit enjoyment and reduce fertility.68
What About if You’re Single?
If you’re not in a relationship, it doesn’t automatically preclude you from the health benefits of sex.
Many of the numerous advantages to intercourse, such as lowered blood pressure, reduced prostate cancer risk, and extended lifespan are due to the frequency of ejaculation—not necessarily vaginal sex.
And, naturally, this is something which you can do solo.
Admittedly, as explored above, some of the health benefits of sex are related to the bonding and intimacy that having a sexual partner creates.
But don’t despair.
Having a wide friendship circle can fill this gap. However, I’m not suggesting you start propositioning intercourse to your contacts on social media (unless that’s the route you want to go down).
Instead, spend time (real, not online) in the company of your friends. Studies show that those with extensive friendship networks are healthier and live longer lives than those without. 69
And, if appropriate, get tactile. Hugging your colleagues, family, and friends can improve blood flow and reduce stress.70
Having regular sex is one of the simplest ways of elevating well-being—both psychological and physiological.
What’s more, it’s free, can be enjoyed (virtually) anywhere, and is immensely pleasurable.
Whether you’re in a relationship or not—have as much sex as you can. Take it as my prescription for a healthier and happier life.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Biswadeep Das in August 2019