Disclaimer: This article discusses the various benefits of having sex, which, for the sake of simplicity and consistency, will be defined here as both consensual and pleasurable for both partners. Additionally, many of the benefits listed in this article are associated with sex resulting in an orgasm, as opposed to sex that does not result in an orgasm. We will be as clear and specific as possible when discussing whether a benefit mentioned refers to sex alone or sex that results in an orgasm.
Across age, ethnicity, geography, and religion, sex is an important part of life. Sexual Intercourse has readily become about more than simply an act of reproduction. In fact, scientists are finding more and more benefits associated with having sex that transcend procreation. Sex can affect a person’s physical and mental health and can improve personal relationships. Although the decision to have sex is personal and sex can affect every person differently, we have listed some of the well-known positive effects of having sex.
Health Benefits of Sex
Sex Can Help Relieve Pain
Several studies have discovered a correlation between sexual activity and pain relief for moderate to severe headaches and migraines. The largest study conducted on this topic was an anonymous survey sent out to 800 migraine patients and 200 cluster headache patients asking about their experiences with engaging in sexual activity during a migraine/cluster headache and how they felt following the sexual activity. The results of this survey show that 70% of migraine patients and 91% of cluster headache patients who responded reported “moderate to complete relief” from their severe headache following sexual activity. 1
This data suggests that sexual activity can provide some relief for moderate to severe headaches. The reason for this phenomenon is that at the point of orgasm the body releases the hormone oxytocin which then triggers the release of a wave of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals known to improve a person’s mood and act as a natural painkiller.
Sex Can Help You Sleep Better
Another benefit of orgasming is increased feelings of relaxation, due in part to the positive hormonal rush released at climax. This increased relaxation can lead to a better sleep. Feelings of relaxation occur post-orgasm for both males and females. Thus, the common cliché that men fall asleep immediately after sex has a grain of truth to it after all. One study found that immediately following ejaculation, activity in the male prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that takes in and responds to new information and stimuli) slows down drastically.2
Sex Burns Calories
Depending on the position and level of physical exertion, sexual activity can be a pleasurable way to engage in moderate exercise throughout the day. One study examining sexual activity in young, healthy couples found that energy expenditure during sexual activity is around 3.6 kCal/min when performed at moderate intensity.3 This study suggests that depending on the position and relative physical health of both partners, sex can be considered a form of legitimate exercise (though maybe not enough to replace a trip to the gym).
Sex Can Boost Immunity
Sex on a regular basis has also been associated with higher levels of immunity and increased ability to fight off the common cold and flu. A study at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that people who had sex once or twice per week had higher levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A, (which is responsible for fighting off infections), than those who did not have sex regularly.4
Sex Can Reduce the Risk of Certain Cancers
Although there are many risk factors associated with cancer and there is no single behavior that will guarantee prevention, there have been studies linking regular sexual activity with decreased risk of prostate cancer in males. One study examining the correlation between frequent sexual activity and prostate cancer found that males who self-reported more frequent levels of ejaculations were less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer when compared to males who reported less frequent levels of ejaculation.5
Sex Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease in Males
Scientists have found a correlation (though not necessarily a cause/effect relationship) between orgasm frequency and risk of heart disease. A study conducted in 1997 found that males who reported higher frequency of orgasm had a significantly decreased likelihood of dying due to coronary heart disease, compared to males who reported lower frequency of orgasm.6
Sex Can Help You Live Longer
In the same study mentioned above, overall mortality risk decreased 50% for males with high orgasmic frequency, suggesting a correlation (again: not the same as causation) between frequent orgasm and higher longevity.6
Although researchers are unable to prove a direct cause and effect relationship between frequent sexual activity and increased longevity, many hypothesize that a healthy sex life leads to happier, healthier relationships that can improve the quality of life overall and have significant positive effects on one’s health.
Sex Can Increase Male Fertility
If a couple is trying to conceive a child, it may be in their best interests to have sex on a regular basis, asopposed to only during prime fertile periods of a female’s cycle. Research has shown that frequent ejaculation can help to get rid of damaged sperm, improving overall sperm health and function and subsequently improving male fertility.8 Although there are many different methods for increasing the likelihood of conception, regular sex is a simple, cost-effective strategy to implement.
Emotional Benefits of Sex
Sex Can Make You Happier
Acting as a natural mood booster, frequent sexual activity can improve overall happiness. One study found that for people in romantic relationships, increasing the frequency of sexual activity up to approximately once per week can increase overall happiness and wellbeing.9 Researchers believe this correlation is due to higher sexual frequency being associated with greater relationship satisfaction, which can increase happiness. However, the study did not find significant effects from increasing the frequency of sexual activity greater than once per week.
Sex Can Reduce Stress
Sex can be used as a destressing method. Sexual activity resulting in an orgasm causes general feelings of relaxation and reduced tension due to the release of oxytocin and endorphins. This enhanced state of relaxation can decrease stress levels and lead to healthier blood pressure levels.2
Relationship Benefits of Sex
Sex Can Increase Intimacy
Within a romantic relationship, sexual activity resulting in orgasm for one or both partners can cause increased trust, intimacy, and even feelings of love. To add to the list of amazing benefits caused by oxytocin released at orgasm, the hormone is also responsible for increasing trust between partners.10 Studies have found oxytocin to be an integral part of building and maintaining trust among people. This increased trust can have positive effects in and out of the bedroom, leading to greater intimacy and a stronger love overall.
Sex Can Cause Greater Relationship Satisfaction
Overall happiness and relationship satisfaction are closely correlated, thus, being a happier individual can positively affect the quality of one’s romantic relationships. Specifically, greater sexual satisfaction is correlated with greater relationship satisfaction.11 Sexual satisfaction can depend on the frequency of sexual activity within a relationship and the quality of the sexual activity; for example, the satisfaction with levels of foreplay, sexual positions, and orgasms.
As evidenced by the wealth of benefits associated with sexual activity and orgasms, sex is not exclusively for procreation. With new scientific research published every year on the topics of sex and sexuality, more reasons to have consensual sex between consenting adults become apparent. Whether it be for your health, happiness, or relationship, there are near countless reasons to have sex, and each reason is personal and unique to you as an individual.
- Hambach, A. The Impact of Sexual Activity on Idiopathic Headaches: An Observational Study. Sage Journals: 2013.
- Stoleru, S. Functional Neuroimagine Studies of Sexual Arousal and Orgasm in Healthy Men and Women: A Review and Meta-Analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews: 2012.
- Frappier, J. Energy Expenditure During Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples. PLOS: 2013.
- Charnetski, CJ. Sexual Frequency and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA). Department of Psychology, Wilkes University: 2004.
- Rider, J. Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-Up. European Urology Journal: 2016.
- Smith, G. Sex and Death: Are They Related? Findings from Caerphilly Cohort Study: 1997.
- Friedman, H. Orgasms, Health and Longevity: Does Sex Promote Health? Psychology Today: 2011.
- Daily Sex Helps to Reduce Sperm DNA Damage and Improve Fertility. European Scoeirty for Human Reproduction and Embryology: 2009.
- Muise, A. Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better. Social Psychological and Personality Science: 2015.
- Kosfeld, M. Oxytocin Increases Trust in Humans. International Weekly Journal of Science: 2005.
- Byers, ES. Relationship Satisfaction and Sexual Satisfaction: A Longitudinal Study of Individuals in Long-Term Relationships. National Institute of Health: 2005.
Last Updated: 27 April 2017.