Can Sex Increase Life Expectancy?

Couple lying in bed together
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While there hasn't been a lot of research on the matter, what has been done indicates that having more sex may increase how long you live—surely welcome news to many. Sex releases several endorphins and hormones in the body, increases feelings of intimacy and bonding, and combats feelings of loneliness and depression. Staying sexually active also has physical, stress relieving, social, and mental benefits.

The Value of Touch

Touch, in general, is necessary for any mammal to thrive. Research shows that animals and babies deprived of physical touch are often sickly and may not develop normally. Exactly how to touch impacts health is somewhat of a mystery, but it likely works on several levels:

  • Cements relationships: Touching helps create bonds that provide vital social support and other benefits known to be linked to life expectancy.
  • Increases self-esteem: Self-esteem is largely our perception of worth, and frequent touching is a way to communicate worth to one another.
  • Provides physical stimulus: It is possible that touch releases hormones and other positive substances in the body, much like the effects of relaxation and meditation.

Health Benefits

While sex can offer the above benefits simply because it involves touch, it also offers many others that can lead to a longer and healthier life.

  • Improves the immune system: People who have sex frequently have been shown to have higher levels of salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA) than those who have less or no sex. IgA is the body's first line of defense against colds and flu, which can often develop into more serious issues.
  • Reduces the risk of prostate cancer: One study that followed 30,000 men for several years found that frequent ejaculation—up to 21 times per month—reduced the risk of developing prostate cancer. While the correlation isn't crystal clear, researchers believe that frequent ejaculations allow the prostate gland to regularly rid itself of carcinogens.
  • Lowers risk of heart disease: According to the extensive research of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, men who have sex twice a week or more have a lower risk of heart disease than those who have sex less often. It is believed that the physical activity required to have sex and having the support of a regular partner both play a part in this finding.
  • Reduces stress and lowers blood pressure: Having sex is a bit of a workout and can, therefore, have a lot of the same positive benefits as exercising, including releasing endorphins that combat stress, which can also help lower blood pressure.

    Sex as You Age

    There is very little data available concerning the sexual habits of older adults. While you may be excited to know that sex may improve life expectancy, it's natural to wonder about how to maintain an active sex life as you age. One thing that is likely to help: Routine exercise.

    Sixty-year-olds who exercise frequently report having the same amount of sex and sexual pleasure as people decades younger. One study examined the sexual frequency and satisfaction ratings of 60-year-old swimmers and found that they were the same as those 20 years younger.

    Another study showed that men and women who were more physically fit rated their own sexual performance higher. Among people who exercised four to five days per week, 88 percent of the women and 69 percent of the men reported their own sexual performance as above average or much above average. The reason for this could simply be an increase in confidence because of an improved body image, or a physiological reason (such as better circulation and blood flow).

    It is also helpful to:

    • Be open and honest with your partner about needs, interests, and desires.
    • Seek medical and/or psychological help for any problems that might arise.
    • Maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure.

    A Word From Verywell

    There are many things you can do to improve your life expectancy, including eating a sensible diet, remaining physically active as you age, keeping up-to-date on medical exams, maintaining personal relationships, and enjoying an active sex life. Be sure to keep all of these aspects of your overall wellness in mind as you make changes to live your healthiest (and longest) life.

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    Article Sources

    • Ardiel E, Rankin C. The importance of touch in development. Paediatr Child Health. 2010;15(3):153-156. doi:10.1093/pch/15.3.153

    • Bhattacharya, S. Frequent ejaculation may protect against cancer. New Scientist, April 6, 2004.

    • Carl J. Charnetski, Francis X. Brennan. Sexual Frequency and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA). June 1, 2004.

    • Penhollow T, Young, M. Sexual Desirability and Sexual Performance: Does Exercise and Fitness Really Matter? Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 7, October 5, 2004.

    • Susan A. Hall, Rebecca Shackelton, Raymond C. Rosen, Andre B. Araujo. Sexual Activity, Erectile Dysfunction, and Incident Cardiovascular Events. The American Journal of Cardiology, Volume 105, Issue 2, Pages 192–197, January 15, 2010.