Sex, Stress, and Health

Int J Health Serv. 1977;7(1):89-101. doi: 10.2190/NBK8-VL8W-ADHV-JKTC.


Recent research suggests possible health benefits of sexual activity. Sexual arousal appears to increase testosterone levels in males. (Related effects in females have not been studied.) This article shows that increased testosterone has a number of health-promoting effects and that good sexual functioning is a health issue not only in itself, but also in its effects on general health as well. Both clinical and experimental evidence indicates that stress disrupts the normal sexual response. Combining this with the previous evidence, a general model of reciprural inhibition between sexual and stress effects is proposed, with the implication that sex may be an antagonist to the deleterious health effects of stress. If stress disrupts sex, the result is likely to be indirect negative effects on health. Three basic types of stress which frequently disrupt sexual functioning are described, and it is argued that sex therapy techniques are effective in large part as a result of their ability to reduce these forms of stress. The kinds of stress that lead to sexual dysfunction have clear social roots. A variety of etiological factors are identified. It is argued that movements promoting social change may in fact perform sexual preventive medicine, which may indirectly augment general health as well.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / therapy
  • Social Change
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Testosterone