"Wear-and-Tear" vs "Use-It-or-Lose-It" Theory
Sexual myths live on, despite the best attempts of researchers to allow the light of day to enter into the musty rooms of hearsay and fable. The work of Masters and Johnson conducted during the 1950s and 1960s demonstrated that the size of a man's penis does not equate to his virility, and that a woman's capacity for orgasm and for maintaining peak sexual excitement is limited only by physical exhaustion, not sexual or orgasmic exhaustion as is the case with men. Yet despite the work of debunkers such as Masters and Johnson, myths about sexual wear and tear live on. These myths are common in a wide range of cultures. They conclude that sexual enjoyment can be secured only at the cost of vigor and well-being. So it is a great pleasure to announce that this myth has been brought to its knees. Contrary to the notion of sex as an energy drain, recent research indicates that orgasm increases life span.* What's more, the greater the number of orgasms in one's life, the lower the mortality and the greater the probability of longer life.
THE SKY'S THE LIMIT
The above-referenced study examined the correspondence between the frequency of sexual intercourse and death.1 For ten years, scientists followed more than 900 men (ages 45-59) in the Welsh town of Caerphilly and several nearby villages. Over the course of the study 150 men died. When follow-up studies were conducted, all deaths, including deaths due to coronary heart disease, were evaluated. In the group with the highest orgasmic frequency, mortality was 50% lower compared to the group with the lowest frequency of orgasms. Similarly, all causes of death were inversely correlated with frequency of orgasm. The more orgasm, the lower the mortality; the fewer orgasms, the higher the mortality. This association for lower mortality was most pronounced in those with coronary heart disease. At the point when the group's number of orgasms per year equaled 100 (about 2 per week) the death rate was significantly lower (68% less mortality) than that of the lowest frequency group (less than 1 per month)! Moreover there was good evidence for a "dose-response" relation across the study. Translated, this means that the improved mortality benefits from orgasm frequency continued - although perhaps at a less steep pace with advanced age - all the way up to daily "doses" (1 orgasm per day or 365 per year) as reported in some subjects, and possibly beyond, even to higher dose levels.
Until now, aside from studies concerned with the sexual transmission of disease, sexual behavior and its relationship to health or mortality has not often been the subject of study. This situation may have to do with researchers in this area being predominately middle-aged who, by and large, study middle-aged and aging populations. Because of their shared assumptions with those whom they study, the researchers relate middle age and sexuality to declining sexual frequency, thus rendering the entire area uninteresting. Epidemiologists tend to study areas that interest other epidemiologists more often than those that interest the general population. Moreover, these same epidemiologists are generally employed by government, an institution not known for its innovation or desire to challenge prevailing assumptions.
WHAT ABOUT WOMEN?
In the scientific literature, we find more support for reversing the general epidemiological silence on the association between sexual behavior and mortality. In a 25-year follow-up aging study, the frequency of sexual intercourse was found to be inversely associated with mortality in men (more sex, less death), and enjoyment of intercourse was inversely related to mortality among women (more sexually-related pleasure, less death).2 From this and other studies we can reasonably conclude that for men the quantity of sexual activity is paramount while for women quality is more important. In a case-controlled study of middle-aged women expressing dissatisfaction with the quality of sex - primarily because of premature ejaculation or impotence of their partners - researchers found an increased risk of acute myocardial infarction.3
Given this general correspondence between sexual quantity/quality and morbidity and mortality, one wonders about the life of celibates such as priests and nuns? An analysis involving over 10,000 priests in the United States did find an overall but marginal increase in mortality compared to the general male population, as well as substantial increases in heart disease and greatly increased mortality attributed to cirrhosis of the liver, a disease associated with alcohol abuse.4 When nuns were studied, a general overall lowering in mortality was seen compared to the general female population, although these results were undoubtedly confuted by their significantly lower rates of smoking.5
THE RISK OF INACTIVITY
There are many "old-wives' tales" as well as esoteric self-denial stories about the detrimental aspects of sex, but very little data to support conclusions that sexual frequency, independent of increasing the potential for disease transmission, can have negative or declining effects on health. In fact, scientific evidence seems to be suggesting quite the opposite.
However, dear reader, because you have stayed with this article this long, presumably with the hope of another good argument for living a sexually-fulfilling life, you are entitled to the reward you've been looking for. Even if the returns aren't completely in, the knowledge gained from the Caerphilly (pronounced "carefully") study gives us the support we need to accelerate our scientific investigation of sex and its potential for enhancement. For example, scientific literature supports the use of arginine, niacin (for prolonged orgasm), choline, ginkgo biloba, yohimbine and other nutrients as useful for taking your sex life to a new level. So, get yourself a copy of Better Sex Through Chemistry or ask for some of our back articles on the subject. If you have been persuaded by the "wear-and-tear" theorists instead of the "use-it-or-lose-it advocates," it is time to think again. We are clearly in territory where too much is not enough. Need I say any more?