Does more sex mean less stress? According to research, the answer is a resounding yes, with the physical act benefiting both the mind and the body.
Sex Can Improve Your Health
Experts contend that sex lowers blood pressure, improves self-esteem, and boosts overall outlook. Actively engaged couples also tend to respond better to new stressors than those abstaining. But that's not all. Additional studies have suggested that the immune system is strengthened among sexually-active people.
Scientists at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA examined saliva samples of 112 college students to determine if the immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels would be different among sexually active students than among celibate ones. They found that students who reported having sex at least once or twice a week had a higher IgA level—a key element in the immune system responsible for warding off infections—than their inactive counterparts.
Lovemaking has also been associated with helping sustain a healthy weight, with the activity burning 85 calories within thirty minutes. While not necessarily considered an intense form of exercise, the energy consumed can nonetheless help shed pounds over the long term. Since exercise has proven to decrease anxiety and depression, playing under the covers with one's partner can only help release tension and improve mood.
Sex is Good for Your Mind, too
Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, lead to higher blood pressure and increased levels of cortisol, commonly known as "the stress hormone." While generally elevated in the morning and subsiding in the evening, cortisol levels among stressed individuals remain high throughout the day, eventually wreaking havoc on the immune system, fertility, the heart, and possibly even memory.
Alternatively, during sex, “feel-good" hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins are released, countering the biological impact of stress with an added bonus of bringing couples closer together. Plus, oxytocin has also been found to improve sleep, another factor necessary to maintain good physical and mental health.
Sex requires focus and concentration, and therefore challenges the body on both a physical and psychological level. This dual effort contributes to bonding, further enhancing the emotional and physical benefits to couples.
The Sex and Stress Relationship
More sex can lead not only to less stress, but also to better relationships, which in turn helps people deal with daily tensions better over time. Unfortunately, the opposite appears to be true as well: more stress tends to result in less sex and all of the unrealized benefits.
Anxiety issues related to sex, such as performance anxiety, exacerbate the problem. For some men, the pressure to perform well in bed leads to severe anxiety, inhibiting their ability to engage in a healthy sex life. In this case, an ideal remedy for stress is the actual cause of the stress itself.
Treatment for sexual performance anxiety generally involves counseling with a sex therapist to help patients understand their anxieties, and find ways to alleviate the issues. Improving self-esteem, communication with one's partner and finding ways to relax during the act are just a few suggestions offered during therapy.
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Date of original publication: April 02, 2013
Updated: September 12, 2019