Male fruit flies who were exposed to female pheromones but were denied the opportunity to mate, experienced a rapid deterioration of their ability to fend off starvation and increased susceptibility to stress – ultimately leading to shorter lives. However, when the males were allowed to mate, the opposite happened and their lifespans were unaffected. The same phenomena has been found in worms.
The impact for humans is startling. Fruit flies are similar enough to humans that about 75% of human diseases have a comparable match in the genome of fruit flies. It’s not just the fruit flies who need some lovin’. Regular sex has extensive health benefits, to include boosting libido (the more you have it, the more you want it), improves bladder control, lowers blood pressure, counts as exercise, lowers heart attack risk, lessens pain, reduces the risk of prostate cancer, improves sleep, and eases stress. Men who had 350 orgasms a year versus the national average of about 81 times a year, live about four years longer.
Could sexual frustration and stress be underlying the mysterious reason that U.S. women are now dying younger than their mothers? In nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period. Female life expectancy in half of the United States is worsening – and no one knows why.
The least educated are the most at risk and high school dropouts now die five years earlier than generations before them. Obesity, smoking, and dead-end jobs are all correlated with the decline in life expectancy. However, it’s not just the girl cutting class and smoking under the bleachers who can expect a shortened life expectancy. The school valedictorian may also be headed for trouble. In Scandinavian countries, high level professional women experience the most stress at work. Ongoing stress can cause depression, and depression may accelerate the aging process on a cellular level.
The link between sex and stress is especially problematic for women. Where men can still perform under pressure, stress shuts women down. Women who are highly stressed have lower levels of genital arousal, higher levels of distraction, and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than average women. The Catch 22 – sex reduces stress, but stressed women don’t feel like having sex.
There are ways to de-stress enough for sex. Yoga has been found to increase both sexual arousal and lubrication in women. Back rubs and massage in general lowers stress hormones. And while it might not sound great, put sexy time on the calendar. Anticipation starts the physiological response of arousal and forces the sex to happen. Sometimes you just have to have sex to get horny, not vice-versa.