The relative health benefits of different sexual activities

J Sex Med. 2010 Apr;7(4 Pt 1):1336-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01677.x. Epub 2010 Jan 15.


Introduction: Although many studies examine purported risks associated with sexual activities, few examine potential physical and mental health benefits, and even fewer incorporate the scientifically essential differentiation of specific sexual behaviors.

Aims: This review provides an overview of studies examining potential health benefits of various sexual activities, with a focus on the effects of different sexual activities.

Methods: Review of peer-reviewed literature.

Main outcome measures: Findings on the associations between distinct sexual activities and various indices of psychological and physical function.

Results: A wide range of better psychological and physiological health indices are associated specifically with penile-vaginal intercourse. Other sexual activities have weaker, no, or (in the cases of masturbation and anal intercourse) inverse associations with health indices. Condom use appears to impair some benefits of penile-vaginal intercourse. Only a few of the research designs allow for causal inferences.

Conclusions: The health benefits associated with specifically penile-vaginal intercourse should inform a new evidence-based approach to sexual medicine, sex education, and a broad range of medical and psychological consultations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attitude to Health
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Coitus / psychology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompetence / physiology
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal System / physiopathology
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiopathology
  • Orgasm / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior* / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior* / psychology