Can Good Sex Keep You Young?
But although Peter enjoys his sexual interludes immensely, he
also does many other things to remain youthful. He watches his weight and
caloric intake very closely and makes sure he stays slim. Over the last
decades, he has been involved in strenuous earth and rock-moving activities in
his own backyard; and he also splits wood when it is needed. He has exercised
steadily and intensely over the years.
So does sex itself really extend our lives or prevent heart
attacks? This claim is difficult to prove. Yes, sex and good health are usually
linked -- in most of the studies and our observations -- but which one is the
chicken and which the egg? Does sex contribute to good health or does good
health make regular sex possible?
How Sex May Keep You Young
One of the first longitudinal studies of aging begun at Duke
University in the '50s and reported in the December 1982 journal
Gerontologist found that the frequency of sexual intercourse (for men)
and the enjoyment of sex (for women) predicted longevity. Other studies have
found that sexual dissatisfaction was a predictor of the onset of
cardiovascular disease. A study published in the November-December 1976 journal
Psychosomatic Medicine compared 100 women with heart disease (acute
myocardial infarction) with a control group and found sexual frigidity and
dissatisfaction among 65% of the coronary patients but only 24% of the
controls. In these studies, though correlations were found between the
frequency and/or enjoyment of sex and longevity or other outcomes, they do not
answer the "chicken and egg" question.
In a long-term study published in book form as Secrets of
the Superyoung, David Weeks, MD, head of old age psychology at the Royal
Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, found that "the key ingredients for looking
younger are staying active ... and maintaining a good sex life." In a study
of 3,500 people, ages 30 to 101, Weeks found that "sex helps you look
between four and seven years younger," according to impartial ratings of
the subjects' photos. Theorizing on his findings, Weeks, a clinical
neuropsychologist, attributed this to significant reductions in stress, greater
contentment, [and] better sleep.
Michael Roizen's reading of the research and his clinical work
have led him to believe that sex keeps us younger because it "decreases
stress, relaxes us, enhances intimacy, and helps ... personal
relationships." Although no study has yet proven a cause-and-effect
relationship between good sex and longevity, there seems to be a beneficial
system at work here -- a sort of virtuous cycle of sex and health reinforcing