Sexual health

Not having sex? Seven surprising ways your health can be affected

Long bouts of celibacy can increase the risk of prostate cancer in men and have a negative effect on mood

Not having sex can have some surprising health consequences.
Not having sex can have some surprising health consequences.GETTY

Going through a dry spell without sex can happen. All kinds of life experiences pop up: a breakup, work, travel, low libido, or just not meeting the right person. One never knows what might end up putting the brakes on your sex life.

If a spell without sex only lasts a few weeks, you may not notice much difference. But if the absence of a love life goes on too much longer, your health may actually be affected. That’s not to say that celibacy has long-lasting effects on your overall health, but you still could see some unexpected changes.

Here is a look at what might happen when your sex life is left high and dry:

1. Your level of stress may change

Sex is nature’s natural stress reliever, and for those who depend on it to combat feeling frayed, guess what: going without could see your stress levels increase. This is especially true for men, who often use sex to feel more relaxed. During intercourse, the brain releases feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and oxytocin, which help you feel more at ease. However, for some women, going without may actually reduce stress and anxiety, as sex may have been painful or was just one more thing on their to-do list.

Besides reducing stress, having skin-to-skin contact with another person is a primal way we receive comfort

2. You may feel depressed

Besides reducing stress, having skin-to-skin contact with another person is a primal way we receive comfort. Sexual connection with lots of caressing and touching can help regulate mood from the release of oxytocin. If you’re lacking a human touch, this can lead to emotionally low feelings. This doesn’t mean that if you’re a healthy person who has stopped having sex that you are going to become depressed. But it may mean you need to get out and be around people to have a sense of belonging and acceptance.

3. For women, vaginal walls may become dry

The “use it or lose it” slogan could be appropriate here, especially for women entering menopause. Regular intercourse after menopause is important for vaginal health. The vaginal walls of older women who are not having regular intercourse can thin out and become dry, leading to painful sex. The solution is to have more sex to increase blood flow to this area of the body.

Another issue of lack of sex in older women is lubrication. Menopause causes a reduction in the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is needed to keep vaginal tissues healthy, elastic, and lubricated. When a woman is young, she has plenty of estrogen to make this happen. But once estrogen levels dwindle, vaginal lubrication lessens with age. To keep the juices flowing, a woman without a partner can pleasure herself to keep her vaginal walls healthy.

4. Your risk of UTIs is reduced

No sex actually has some benefits – such as a reduction of sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections. Sexual intercourse is responsible for increasing the risk of recurrent UTIs. In pre-menopausal women, 80% of UTIs can occur within 24 hours of having sex. The more sex you are having, the greater likelihood of UTIs.

5. Menstrual cramps can become worse

The uncomfortable menstrual cramps many women experience can actually be helped by having sex. This is because an orgasm causes contractions, causing more blood to be expelled, which can decrease menstrual cramps. The release of endorphins is also believed to help with cramps.

The uncomfortable menstrual cramps many women experience can actually be helped by having sex

6. Men may have an increased risk of prostate cancer

Men, listen up: sex is considered a prostate-protecting tool. Studies have found that men aged 20 to 29 who ejaculated 21 times or more each month were 19% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than men who ejaculated less often, between four and seven times per month.

This same finding held true for men aged 40 to 49 who ejaculated at least 21 times a month, which reduced their risk of developing prostate cancer by 22%.

The reason appears to be that frequent ejaculation may remove potentially harmful substances from the prostate.

7. You may become more susceptible to colds and flu

Even though not having close contact with someone else can reduce your exposure to germs, missing out on a night of passion can also reduce the immune-boosting benefits it brings. Researcher at Wilkes-Barre University in Pennsylvania found people who had sex once or twice a week had a 30% boost in immunoglobulin A (IgA) compared with those who had sex seldom or never. IgA is one of the body’s first lines of defense against viruses.

8. A man’s risk for erectile dysfunction rises

Again, this goes back to “use it or lose it.” Infrequent sex for men makes them twice as likely to experience erectile dysfunction compared to men who engage in bedroom activities once a week or more according to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine. Study authors state that frequent sex may help preserve the strength of the penis in the same way exercise helps maintain other parts of the body.

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical contributor for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, SamadiMD.com, davidsamadiwiki, davidsamadibio and Facebook.

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