A good sexual life may benefit women but harm men’s heart health, says study

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Sex is an important part of life, and it can strongly influence our physical and mental health. It is thought that having sex actively brings many health benefits.

Such benefits include boosting libido, improving the immune system, lowering the blood pressure, reducing pain, improving sleep, and lowering heart attack risks.

However, a recent study shows that sex may benefit men and women differently, especially in an old age. In fact, a good sexual life may protect women but harm men’s heart health. The finding is published in Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Researchers obtained data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. They analyzed the sexual activity data from 2000+ participants who were 57 – 85 years old. The data were collected during 2005-2006 (Time 1) and during 2010-2011 (Time 2).

The questionnaire included questions about partnered sexual activity (e.g., frequency of sex, intercourse, and orgasm), sexual quality (e.g., physical pleasure and emotional satisfaction), heart health (e.g., high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, general heart attack events, etc.), and other social-health info.

The result showed that men were more likely to have partnered sex than women. Men also reported a higher frequency of sex than women.

Further analysis showed men who had sex once a week or more at Time 1 experienced more heart attack events in Time 2 than men who were sexually inactive. Moreover, men reporting a very pleasurable and satisfying sexual relationship in Time 1 had much higher odds of heart attack in Time 2 than men who had less pleasurable sex.

For older women, higher physical pleasure and emotional satisfaction predicted lower heart attack risks, especially high blood pressure. Women who thought their sexual relationships were extremely pleasurable in Time 1 had much lower odds of hypertension in Time 2 than women whose sex was not pleasurable.

Researchers suggest that older men who reported that they had sex frequently and had very satisfied sexual life may also use sexual medication or supplements or have some type of sexual addiction. This can harm their heart health.

For women, sexual satisfaction is often related to relationship quality, i.e. a good sex life usually means a strong, close romantic relationship. The high relationship quality can reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing and in turn heart health.


Citation: Liu H, et al. (2016). Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk among Older Men and Women. doi: 10.1177/0022146516661597
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