Scientists have found that sex seems to be good for us in many ways. For example, sexual activity has stress-relieving properties: when couples in a good quality relationship have sex on one day, they report feeling less stressed the next day. Moreover, having sex increases people’s sense of meaning in life and leads to a boost in positive mood states. Beyond these psychological effects, some research suggests that having frequent sex might also have benefits for your heart health.
In a longitudinal study of 1,165 men aged 40-70, researchers looked at how frequency of sexual activity was linked to rates of cardiovascular disease. Participants health status was tracked for an average of 16 years.
What they found was that men who had sex more often had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease later on. Specifically, those who had sex once per month or less were 45% more likely to develop cardiovascular problems than those who had sex 2-3 times per week or more.
Importantly, this association emerged despite the fact that researchers controlled for age, erectile dysfunction, and general cardiovascular risk (as determined by smoking status, cholesterol level, blood pressure, diabetes, etc.). This suggests that there seems to be something unique about sexual activity when it comes to heart health.
So what explains this? To some degree, it may be that people who are in better health to begin with are simply more interested in and capable of having sex, so they do it more often. However, it’s probably not just that. We know that sex is a form of exercise that burns calories. Frequent sex necessarily means you’re getting some physical activity, so there’s likely to be a direct effect of that on health. In addition, given the aforementioned stress-reducing properties of sex, that could very well offer another potential avenue to improved heart health.
More research would be useful to better understand what the explanation behind this association, as well as to explore whether the same effect exists in women. However, this finding is consistent with a large and growing body of research suggesting that sex seems to be good for our health.
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To learn more about this research, see: Hall, S. A., Shackelton, R., Rosen, R. C., & Araujo, A. B. (2010). Sexual activity, erectile dysfunction, and incident cardiovascular events. The American Journal of Cardiology, 105(2), 192-197.
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