The Health Benefits of Sex

Written by Pamela Rogers, MS, PhD | Published on July 21, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on July 21, 2014

The Health Benefits of Sex

People who are dissatisfied with their sex lives often report not being able to find time for sexual expression. Whatever the cause (fatigue, children, work, etc.), it is possible to find time to engage in sexual activity, whether it’s with a partner or alone.

Aside from reproduction, though, sex is ultimately about intimacy and pleasure. Sexual expression has many positive physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological, and social benefits. Here are some findings from the scientific literature about the health benefits of sex.

Physical Wellness

Physical Appearance

An active sex life may yield benefits such as a more youthful appearance. In addition, sexual activity burns calories and fat, and it has been suggested that people with active sex lives tend to exercise more frequently and have better dietary habits than those who are less sexually active. Likewise, physical fitness can improve sexual health.


The intimacy hormone, oxytocin, is released during orgasm. Studies show that oxytocin promotes better sleep. And better sleep has been linked to stronger immunity and longer lifespan.

Disease Prevention and Management

Your chances of having heart problems decrease if you stay sexually active. This is due to higher levels of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that is produced during arousal and orgasm.

Research has shown that sexual activity and orgasms may bolster the immune system in women and men.


In men, high frequency of ejaculation (more than 21 times per month) is related to a decrease in the risk of prostate cancer.

Although results are conflicting, some studies have shown that the quality of sperm motility decreases with abstinence. In healthy men these declines can take effect after only five days of abstinence.

Men who have frequent orgasms, whether through masturbation or sex, may experience a lower risk of developing prostate cancer.


Sexual activity and orgasm during menstruation has a potentially protective effect against endometriosis.

Women who continue to be sexually active after they reach menopause, with a partner or through masturbation, are less likely to have significant vaginal atrophy and are more likely to report sufficient vaginal lubrication.

Emotional Well-Being and Relationship Improvement

Sexual experience and satisfaction are closely correlated with overall quality of life. They increase your sense of well-being and personal satisfaction. Sexual activity is negatively correlated with the risk and incidence of psychiatric illness, depression, and suicide. Sexual activity and orgasm reduce stress.

Sexual satisfaction is also associated with the stability of relationships. Consistent mutual sexual pleasure increases bonding within a relationship. It has also been demonstrated that coupled partners have increased relationship satisfaction when they fulfill one another's sexual desires. A study of young married women found that those who reported masturbating also reported greater marital satisfaction.

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Send us your feedback

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.

Show Sources

  • Berberich, H. J. (2004). [Sexuality in the aged]. Urologe Ausgabe A. Sep;43(9):1076-81.
  • Beutel, M. E., Stöbel-Richter, Y., & Brähler, E. (2008). Sexual desire and sexual activity of men and women across their lifespans: Results from a representative German community survey. British Journal of Urology International. Jan;101(1):76-82. Epub 2007 Oct 17.
  • Brody, S. (2006). Blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity. Biological Psychology. Feb;71(2):214-22. Epub 2005 Jun 14.
  • Brody, S., & Costa, R. M. (2009). Satisfaction (sexual, life, relationship, and mental health) is associated directly with penile-vaginal intercourse, but inversely with other sexual behavior frequencies. Journal of Sexual Medicine. Jul;6(7):1947-54. Epub 2009 Apr 28. 
  • Brody, S. (2010). The relative health benefits of different sexual activities. Journal of Sexual Medicine. Apr;7(4 Pt 1):1336-61. Epub 2010 Jan 15.
  • Brody, S., Veit, R., & Rau, H. (2000). A preliminary report relating frequency of vaginal intercourse to heart rate variability, Valsalva ratio, blood pressure, and cohabitation status. Biological Psychology. Apr;52(3):251-7.
  • Burri, A., Heinrichs, M., Schedlowski, M., & Kruger, T. H. (2008). The acute effects of intranasal oxytocin administration on endocrine and sexual function in males. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Jun;33(5):591-600. Epub 2008 Mar 28.
  • Costa, R. M., & Brody, S. (2012). Greater resting heart rate variability is associated with orgasms through penile-vaginal intercourse, but not with orgasms from other sources. Journal of Sexual Medicine. Jan;9(1):188-97.
  • DeLamater, J., & Moorman, S. M. (2007). Sexual behavior in later life. Journal of Aging and Health. Dec;19(6):921-45.
  • DeLamater, J. D., & Sill, M. (2005). Sexual desire in later life. Journal of Sex Research. May;42(2):138-49.
  • Faraut, B., Boudjeltia, K. Z., Vanhamme, L., & Kerkhofs, M. (2012). Immune, inflammatory and cardiovascular consequences of sleep restriction and recovery. Sleep Medicine Reviews. Apr;16(2):137-49. Epub 2011 Aug 10.
  • Gupta, K. (2011). "Screw health": Representations of sex as a health-promoting activity in medical and popular literature. Journal of Medical Humanities. Jun;32(2):127-40.
  • Hurlbert, D. F., & Whittaker, K. E. (1991). The role of masturbation in marital and sexual satisfaction: A comparative study of female masturbators and nonmasturbators. Journal of Sex Education & Therapy, Vol 17(4), 1991, 272-282.
  • Jannini E. A., Fisher, W. A., Bitzer, J., & McMahon, C. G. (2009). Is sex just fun? How sexual activity improves health. Journal of Sexual Medicine. Oct;6(10):2640-8.
  • Leitzmann, M. F., Platz, E. A., Stampfer, M. J., Willett, W. C., & Giovannucci, E. (2004). Ejaculation frequency and subsequent risk of prostate cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association. Apr 7;291(13):1578-86
  • Levitas, E., Lunenfeld, E., Weiss, N., Friger, M., Har-Vardi, I., Koifman, A., et al. (2005). Relationship between the duration of sexual abstinence and semen quality: analysis of 9,489 semen samples. Fertil Steril. Jun;83(6):1680-6.
  • Rinnab, L., Schrader, A. J., Schrader, M., & Zengerling, F. (2012). [Male sexuality in the elderly]. Urologe Ausgabe A. 2012 Oct;51(10):1399-413. 

Read This Next

What Are Sexual Norms?
What Are Sexual Norms?
Adderall and Weight Loss: What You Need to Know
Adderall and Weight Loss: What You Need to Know
The Top 10 Deadliest Diseases
The Top 10 Deadliest Diseases
7 Creepy But (Mostly) Harmless Food and Drug Reactions
7 Creepy But (Mostly) Harmless Food and Drug Reactions
Holy Basil, Batman! 7 Potential Health Benefits
Holy Basil, Batman! 7 Potential Health Benefits