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The Health Benefits of Sex

John Bankston John Bankston
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD, Karyn Eilber, MD, and Marianne Madsen on January 2, 2023

To cope during stressful times, we sometimes do things we know are bad for us. We eat too much ice cream or sacrifice sleep binge-watching Netflix series. We drink more alcohol. The good news is there is one tried and true stress buster that has been linked to looking younger and feeling better. Turns out that sex alone or with a partner has enormous benefits. So how do you get these benefits?


Healthy Attitudes About Sex


Sexual activity was once rarely discussed. The only time it was brought up was if it was  a warning –– young women were cautioned about it leading to pregnancy or scandal. Although it takes two to tango or make a baby, young men were often left out of this conversation. For over a century,  public attitudes towards sexuality have grown more accepting. As a Louisiana museum exhibit on the United States prohibition explains, during the 1920s male-only bars were not only replaced by mixed-gender speakeasies, but once taboo conversations about sex shifted from whispers in a bedroom to widespread coverage in popular magazines and newspapers. From Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking 1953 study, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, to today’s sex-positive blogs and websites, there has been a great deal of attention paid to the health benefits of female orgasm. Yet despite this, some women still feel guilt or shame about sex. A recent study concluded that sexual activity among women aged 25 to 34 years has decreased over the last 20 years. However, an examination of global attitudes surveying over 26,000 people found that three out of five respondents agreed that sex was important to them, while two-thirds said “a good sex life is a vital part of life.” Having a positive and healthy attitude towards sex is the first step to enjoying its benefits.

Physical health benefits of sex


Many people have found sticking to any fitness routine to be challenging. You’ll be happy to know that one study of young couples concluded that certain sexual activity can be viewed “as a significant exercise.” Sex can do more than burn calories. It can boost your self esteem. If your partner compliments you before, during, and after the act your confidence will increase. Self esteem can also rise when you feel comfortable with your body. Because familiarity breeds contempt faster when you stick to familiar routines, one sex therapist proposed “naked Sundays” as a way to improve stale relationships. If all-day nudity isn’t possible, try giving each other a massage. Share how you like to be touched. Take your time. Because it turns out besides the many ways sex benefits your health, it can also improve your looks. In the late 1990s, author Jamie James wrote about David Weeks’ study of thousands who looked younger than their age. Their book Secrets of the Superyoung noted that many had sexual intercourse at least three times a week.


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Sexual Health - Orgasm and Health

Sexual Health - Orgasm and Health

Mental health benefits of sex


You may have heard of oxytocin. Some call it “the love drug.” This hormone has been linked to positive emotional states. An examination of multiple studies noted that in Sweden, frequency of penile–vaginal intercourse was an important predictor of a woman’s satisfaction with her mental health while a Portuguese study concluded that this frequency also led to a positive perception of her relationship. However, it’s important to note that oxytocin is not exclusively a sex benefit. The hormone is released during a wide range of pleasurable activities. One widely-reported study concluded that both dogs and their owners release it during their time together. Although a later study challenged this, if you’ve ever felt better following playtime with your puppy, or after exercising, playing music, or from a wide range of healthy, fun activities oxytocin may be partly responsible. 


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Sexual Health - Clitoral Stimulation

Sexual Health - Clitoral Stimulation

Benefits of Masturbation


If you don’t have a partner, there’s no reason to be a sullen single. While sex outside of a committed relationship can bring a host of issues from unplanned pregnancies to sexually transmitted diseases, the benefits of masturbation closely align with partnered sex. The truth is most sexual activity has proven health benefits.


Solitary exploration is healthy too. Whether your orgasm comes from masturbation or intercourse, one of the health benefits of the female orgasm is that it releases endorphins and oxytocin that can help you sleep. One study noted that one-third of women who had masturbated in the past three months did so for exactly that reason. You may have already discovered this –– which is why for so many masturbation is as much a nighttime ritual as a cup of herbal tea. If you’ve gotten in the habit of nighttime rubs or shower quickies, it can be as healthy and mood altering to switch up your alone time as it is with a partner. Try concluding a yoga or stretching session with some solitary exploration. Spend time on non-sexual parts. Don’t rush.


There’s no pressure. Remember that although there is a long list for the health benefits of sex, pleasure and even joy can come from writing, painting, exercise, faith, and a host of other activities like playing with a pet or a loved one. No matter what you do, finding ways to feel better about yourself and your life is an ideal stress buster.

Doctor Profile

John Bankston


John Bankston is a published author of over 150 nonfiction books for children and young adults including biographies of Jonas Salk, Gerhard Domak, and Frederick Banting.

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