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An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away

Regular orgasms can lengthen your life – or so it seems. Many studies, conducted from the seventies to present, indicate that an energetic sex life can be good for you. Although the science of sexuality is still young, it isn’t coming down on the side of abstinence.

One 1997 study, by Dr. Davie Smith and colleagues, quizzed men on the frequency of their orgasms, and followed up ten years later. The findings: men having frequent orgasms had a 50 per cent lower mortality risk than men having infrequent orgasms. That is, after controlling for factors like age and social status, the study concluded that the more orgasms you have, the lower your risk of death.

Another study, conducted by Dr. Leon Abramov, examined the sex lives of 100 Israeli women. Its results were similar, finding that frigidity – an inability to experience orgasm, or indifference to sex – is correlated with heart attack. The women, who had already been hospitalized due to heart attack, took a 57-question interview about their sex lives. Their responses showed a disproportionate number of them to be frigid.

Orgasms may also prevent prostate cancer, according to two studies. An Australian study by Dr. Graham Giles and colleagues found that men who had over four orgasms a week from their twenties through their forties had a one-third lower risk of prostate cancer. And a 2004 American study by Dr. Michael Leitzmann and colleagues found the same thing: high ejaculation frequency is correlated with lowered risk of prostate cancer. The authors speculated that ejaculation might flush out carcinogens from the prostate, or perhaps help it to maintain healthy, new cells.

The problem with all of these studies is that they don’t prove that orgasms cause lower rates of heart disease or prostate cancer – they only prove orgasms are correlated with them. So the studies might be tricking us, making us think orgasm benefits health when actually it’s not orgasm that reduces heart risk, but maybe physical exertion due to sex. Or maybe having a strong libido is the factor that improves health. It’s unclear, since these studies don’t explain any cause-and-effect relationship.

Women’s health magazines and less stringent sexologists have been glad to infer causation from this research, especially as studies showing the positive effects of orgasm add up. More convincingly, the authors of the Smith study state that “evidence of causation is as convincing here as in many other areas where causation is assumed.”

So believing that daily orgasms can help you live longer might not be too crazy – especially if you also take into account the historical use of orgasm. In ancient Egypt and Greece, “medical massage” was used to treat hysteria, a condition thought to result from sexual deprivation. Medical massage thrived over the next two millennia, before fizzling out in the 20th century thanks to the male-dominated medical establishment’s overdeveloped sense of propriety. Perhaps because of this embarrassment, it is only recently that science has focused on the possible connections between orgasm and health.