Updated 03 April 2014

Why sex is good for you

Sex could be one of the most enjoyable lifespan boosters we have. Scientists are beginning to unravel the reasons why people who are sexually active have healthier, happier lives.

Sex could be one of the most enjoyable lifespan boosters we have.

Long considered to play an important role in physical and psychological well-being, scientists are beginning to unravel the reasons for which studies consistently find people who are sexually active have healthier, happier lives.

Pain reliever

Sexual activity stirs up a number of important chemicals. Couple and sex therapist Marlene Wasserman, also radio talk show host, explains that endorphins - pain killing, feel good chemicals - are released at the point of orgasm.

Wasserman also enthuses about the positive effects of oxytocin, a chemical released by mere touch.

"Oxytocin fosters a feeling of calm and makes you seek out sex and a partner. If we are deprived of touch, we're deprived of oxytocin.

"Unfortunately, sex may be the only forms of touch for too many people. And when people stop having sex for whatever reason, they tend to stop touching altogether and the problems begin."

Less sex means less oxytocin - and less sex-seeking behaviour.

Good psychology

Everyone agrees on the psychological benefits of sex. Every psychologist, physician and sex therapist uses words like "well-being", "self worth" and "self image" when describing the effects of regular sex.

Wasserman says sex primarily offers a feeling of being connected.

"It depends on whom you're having sex with, but sex can be the ultimate connection. For many, it takes on a spiritual dimension which transcends the purely physical."

Sex makes you feel desire and desired.

"It makes you feel positive and energetic if you're having the kind of sex you want with the person you want," says Wasserman.

It also makes you aware of yourself and your body.

"It's a time for you to get in tune with your own tastes, smells and sexual vision and with another person's tastes, smells and sexual vision. Sex creates a connection to your 'self' and to another person," she says.

Immune booster

The links between the brain, the immune and nervous systems and sex are being explored in the new field of psycho-neuro-immunology.

While the health benefits of massage have long been known, a study by the Human Science Research Council has found touch alone can raise seratonin (a neurotransmitter) that boosts the body's immune (defence) cells.

Psychologist Tebogo Motale conceded the study could have a point, simply because stress has been shown to lower immunity. "Regular intercourse is stress relieving and generally promotes good health."

Confidence booster

The pleasure of sex is a right and everyone should be able to enjoy it in a relationship. Provided, of course, it's in a good relationship.

"Single people," says Wasserman, "tend to give up a part of themselves unnecessarily."

"They lose trust in their sexuality and sexual ability. People don't masturbate, but rather wait for a partner to fulfil them sexually. People should masturbate freely without guilt."

Eastern philosophy claims sex contributes to longevity and better health.

While researchers may not yet have established the how's and why's of the benefits of good sex, Wasserman says one thing is certain: "We know those who have the best sex are those who are sexually healthy, which means those who are generally healthy have a sex positive attitude.

“Good sex affects your mind and acts physiologically to make you feel healthier."


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