Throughout our lives, nearly all of us will have a sexual encounter with another person. As Individuals, we feel attracted to people of the opposite or the same sex. Friendships occur, and sometimes it will lead to an intimate connection that becomes sexual.
To do so is all perfectly natural, and it is how many of us develop intimate relationships, get married, or go on to have children.
For some, being sexually active plays a crucial role in their lives. Other people are just as happy abstaining from sex or being celibate.
What are the benefits, or side-effects, of having sex versus not having sex? There are many positives and negatives of being in a sexual relationship. However, not having sex for an extended period should not be detrimental to health. Subscribing to our newsletter can provide you with relationship or sexual advice that is right for you.
Sex And Personal Health
Making love is a physical act wrapped inside a passionate blanket of emotion, excitement, happiness, sorrow, or regret. If you are in a loving relationship, having sex can improve your physical and mental well-being in many different ways. Let us look at why enjoying regular sex is good for your health.
- Increased immunity strength: The immune system is the body’s defense against infection, illness, and diseases, caused by harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. Enjoying sexual intercourse, either once or twice per week boosts the immune system by creating higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in the saliva. IgA is part of the immune system and is an antibody that helps fight off infection. (1)
- Lowers blood pressure: A 2016 study revealed that older women who enjoyed sex were less likely to suffer from high blood pressure. The research showed that older men did not receive the same benefit of lower blood pressure after having regular intercourse. (2)
- Cardiovascular health: Sex as physical activity is a form of exercise and can help to strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure, combat stress, and improve sleep patterns. Being in a loving sexual partnership can also ward off loneliness, depression, and feelings of anxiety, all of which have a connection to a higher risk of heart disease. (3)
- Stress reduction: Stress is the body’s natural reaction to perceived threats identified by the central nervous system. Sexual intimacy may help reduce stress by diverting our attention away from the worries and triggers that cause us to become stressed. Additionally, having sex releases endorphins that can improve mood and help fight against stress, anxiety, and depression. (4)
- Self-esteem: Having sex can make you feel good and boost your confidence and self-esteem.
- Improved sleep pattern: Sleep is an essential component that aids good physical and mental health. After sex, your body releases prolactin, a hormone that helps you relax. Oxytocin is also released, helping to promote sleep. (5)
- Prostate health: The prostate is a small gland about the size and shape of a walnut and is part of the male reproductive system. As men age, they can suffer from an enlarged prostate, which may cause difficulties when trying to urinate. Other issues may include kidney or bladder damage.
Men over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer and should talk to their doctor about the possibility of being tested. A 2016 study found that men who ejaculated at least 21 times per month had a lower risk of prostate cancer than those who ejaculated seven times or less per month. (6)
- Pelvic floor: Women who enjoy frequent sexual activity can look forward to strengthened pelvic floor muscles that improve bladder function and help reduce incontinence and leakage. (7)
The Feel-Good Factor
Sex can also promote intimacy and is a crucial part of a loving and fulfilling relationship. Having a solid sexual connection can lead to a closer bonding partnership.
- Become closer to your partner.
- Affection or love for your partner becomes stronger.
- Having sex is fun and pleasurable.
- A desire to have children.
- Feel confident and sexy.
- High self-esteem.
- Increased libido.
Is Too Much Sex Too Much?
There has always been the question of how often should I have sex, or what is the ideal amount of sex to have? There is no correct answer to those questions as long as couples are satisfied sexually. But what are the downsides of too much sex?
Here’s a brief look:
- Exhaustion or being over-tired.
- Becoming addicted.
- Sore penis in men, or inflammation and swelling in women.
- Muscle or lower back pain.
- Losing interest.
- Greater risk of contracting Urinary Tract Infections.
While having the right amount of sex for you encourages good health and closer relationship ties, many people prefer not to engage in penetrative sex and still enjoy life to the full.
What is Celibacy And Why Choose To Abstain From Sex?
Although many people enjoy the benefits of having sex, many people prefer to abstain and enjoy a celibate lifestyle. Research has shown that those who prefer not to have sex are just as happy as people who do. (8) So what is celibacy and are there any benefits from adopting a life free from sex?
Celibacy means different things to different people. To some people, it can mean a lifetime free from any sexual activity, including penetrative and non-penetrative sex. For others, only sexual intercourse is taboo, and they enjoy many romantic moments that do not involve full sex. Some people take a vow of abstinence, for example, before marriage. Defining celibacy or abstinence is up to each person.
A person who is asexual quite often has no desire to have sex and rarely has any sexual attraction towards another person. However, an asexual person may still participate in sexual activity and have romantic relationships if they desire. There is also no difference, in the levels of happiness, between a person who is asexual, celibate, or a person who enjoys regular sexual activity.
Are There Benefits From Not Having Sex?
There can be benefits to not being sexually active. While having regular sex with a partner can be health-rewarding, being promiscuous or having unprotected sex can be dangerous for your health. Here are some of the advantages of not having sex:
- The risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or infection is minimal.
- Little or no risk of unintended/unwanted pregnancy.
- Having sex can be a burden if you are in a bad relationship or in a relationship where one person desires it more than the other.
- Without the pressure of sex, relationships may have space to grow outside sexual activity.
- Physical and emotional attraction can often get confused. Not having sex may help you understand the difference.
- It may allow you to focus on your career, friendships, or family.
There are also advantages for teenagers who commit to abstinence during their school years. Reports from the public-funded media organization NPR state that teens who abstain from having sex are half as likely to drop out of school as their sexually active peers. The report also states that teens who commit to having no sex until they are 18 years of age are twice as likely to graduate from college, and on average, earn up to $400,000 in their lifetime earnings. (9)
Relationships And Intimacy Without Sex
Not having sex does not mean that you cannot be intimate within a relationship. Many couples in all orientations enjoy sexual intimacy without having sex. Being creative in the bedroom, or elsewhere, between consenting couples can be as satisfying as having sex. Non-penetrative sexual activities may be more pleasurable for older people, or LGBTQ couples, who tend to participate in non-penetrative sexual activities.
Activities can include:
- Spending more time kissing, cuddling, or touching each other.
- Oral sex.
- Simply sleeping together.
- Massaging each other.
- Dancing together.
- Cooking or enjoying a hobby together.
Relax, And Enjoy Your Life
Simply enjoying intimacy and being happy is more important than having sex. While sex has some great wellness benefits, there is no correct amount or frequency to have sex.
Also, not having sex for lengthy periods should not have any harmful health effects, and it is for each person to decide whether they want to have sex or not have sex. Relax, and enjoy your own company or the company of others.
If you are concerned about having a lower sex drive or are worried about the effects of not having enough sex, talk to your doctor or therapist, and subscribe to Dr.Nandi’s newsletter for health and relationship information.
- Sexual Frequency and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA) – Carl J. Charnetski, Francis X. Brennan, 2004 (sagepub.com)
- Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk Among Older Men and Women – PMC (nih.gov)
- Is Sex Dangerous If You Have Heart Disease? | Johns Hopkins Medicine
- The Stress-Sex Connection | Psychology Today
- Sex Before Bed Improves Sleep (healthline.com)
- Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-up – European Urology
- A strong pelvic floor is associated with higher rates of sexual activity in women with pelvic floor disorders – PMC (nih.gov)
- National Review: Surprise! Abstinence Does Work : NPR