Health Benefits of Sex?
November 10, 2008 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Sex is often touted as beneficial for one's health. Is this supposed to be true for both men and women, and how much evidence is there for the claim (apart from calorie expenditure, which is still negligible compared to actual aerobic exercise)? And is it primarily the orgasm that's supposedly healthful, or even sex sans orgasm?
posted by taramosalata to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I would argue it's good for your mental health.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:45 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stress leads to a host of conditions (indirectly) and "Experts say reaching orgasm can be effective stress reliever". Like exercise, sex raises endorphin levels which has a beneficial effect.
posted by GuyZero at 3:52 PM on November 10, 2008

Best answer: Semen cures depression?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:53 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Frequent orgasm (okay, ejaculation) is beneficial to prostate health in men. So sex without orgasm wouldn't be as healthy for men, although there are other benefits.
posted by Justinian at 3:54 PM on November 10, 2008

It's much more difficult to reproduce without sex, and reproduction is good for the health of your species.

A lot of the benefit from sex may lie in the (if performed properly) vigorous exercise. Also helpful is the release of oxytocin which helps you bond with your partner, among other things.
posted by mullingitover at 3:57 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

The health benefits of masturbation
posted by jourman2 at 3:58 PM on November 10, 2008

Best answer: Masturbation helps prevent prostate cancer. Take that, Onan!
posted by benzenedream at 3:58 PM on November 10, 2008

There's considerable evidence that a person's state of mind affects the working of their immune system. Someone who's tied in knots in frustration doesn't have as good a state of mind as someone who got laid the night before.
posted by Class Goat at 4:00 PM on November 10, 2008

i recall a study where orgasm actually relieved pain somewhat. perhaps certain hormones are released that reduce inflammation? inflammation is one of those bugbears of good health--even inflamed gums put you at higher risk for heart disease. less inflammation = better health.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:18 PM on November 10, 2008

My partner visited the urologist last week. This particular doctor recommends that men ejaculate at least three times a week.
posted by Robert Angelo at 4:37 PM on November 10, 2008

I love askme. Never heard of oxytocin before. Now I am reading scientific articles on it.

And my two cents on the original question:

It is most definitely good for men and women. Any good doctor will ask you about your sex life. It's a biological need. Organisms tend to get cranky when they don't have these.

People with healthy sex lives live longer, are less depressed, and are generally less lonely.

Also, sex, when done right is aerobic exercise. I'm betting you'd pass out first if you tried to make it into an anaerobic exercise.

And I'm not sure the people touting the prostrate health benefits are correct. Will read the links, but was told it didn't matter either way (by a doctor). Be interesting to see if there is an increased rise in prostate cancer deaths among the celibate.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:52 PM on November 10, 2008

I've sometimes wanted to know the opposite - I mean, I like sex a lot, but, all the reports that it's really good for you, I mean, sure we want too, but doesn't that just make for a justification looking for evidence?
(Same with

I've noticed several times though, that rather than being a stress reliever, a lovely new partner, lots of great sex, and I seem to completely stress out.
To the extent that being celibate for awhile would probably be a good idea, but - did I mention I really like sex? D:

I then read in New Scientist, that in many people, there's a severe drop in serotonin, and a rise in symptoms, like unto that of OCD, among the newly love-struck (I wouldn't have exactly described it as love ;P ), so I guess it's not technically the sex's fault.
Article here (full article here).

Still. Given I'd noticed the cycle before reading the article, it's a big negative in my book. Not sure what to do about it other than take some 5-htp for a bit?? Wait til everything else is non-stressy?
posted by Elysum at 4:55 PM on November 10, 2008

Best answer: This article in New Scientist says that having sex shortly before a stressful event reduced associated stress. Perhaps surprisingly, penetrative sex had this effect far more than other forms.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:51 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was only able to be in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia for a short time, but what I learned during that period was that the PC's Medical Officer pushed sexual activity as a kind of cure all for many mental health issues. Volunteers often came in to speak with her about depression or anxiety cause by isolation, bleak weather, homesickness or a combination of the above. Inevitably the PCMO's first response was to look the person in the eye and ask, "Are you having the sex?" If your answer was no, she would tell you you should be, citing how much better you would feel and offering up free condoms or oral contraceptives.

This was especially interesting to me considering that societies views on pre-marital sex, and what Peace Corps' response would be if you did get pregnant, but that's another story
posted by piratebowling at 6:51 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Let's not overlook the #2 reason we all seek sex: human touch.

Babies die without it.

People get whacky without it.

We need it, and naked full-body-to-body is the most we can get of it.

Praise the Lord and pass the a\m\m\o\ lube!
posted by IAmBroom at 7:02 PM on November 10, 2008

People with healthy sex lives live longer, are less depressed, and are generally less lonely
Yes, less lonely because they actually HAVE someone to have sex with. Hard to stop being lonely if you have no one to have sex with.
But to answer the question, sex is good for your self image and confidence, if you do it with the right person, for the right reasons. Or at least if you don't do it with the wrong person for the wrong reasons.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:12 PM on November 10, 2008

bah, what happened to the spaces between the lines that I saw in the preview of my post? Sorry about that.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:14 PM on November 10, 2008

negligible compared to actual aerobic exercis

Only if you're not doing it right.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:14 AM on November 11, 2008

Ejaculation may relieve stuffy noses in men. For starters.
posted by cobra libre at 6:14 AM on November 11, 2008

Best answer: Thanks for all responses so far. Apart from the workout already mentioned, answers seem to boil down to:

1) the pleasures of endorphins and oxytonin (orgasm-driven)
2) the emotional reward of intimacy, and other derivatives thereof (e.g., confidence)
3) various kinds of collateral physical relief (for ejaculating men mostly)

The question was really about sex itself, with orgasm and without, but regardless of love. Other than the emotional stuff, then, it seems that sex is 'healthful' only when orgasm is reached. Are we agreed on that?
posted by taramosalata at 12:10 PM on December 15, 2008

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