Sex: The truth about sex - More of it makes you live longer

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The Independent Online
Sex adds years to life as well as life to years. Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor, considers research which shows that men who have more orgasms live longer.

Sex is good for you and quantity does matter - at least for middle- aged men, according to a study in Wales. They cut their risk of dying by 36 per cent - more than a third - for every 100 orgasms they have a year.

The finding could mean the addition of ``at least twice a week'' to the usual health advice given by doctors of ``at least five a day'' (pieces of fruit and veg) and ``no more than two or three'' (drinks).

But the researchers caution that before sex becomes available on prescription further work to confirm the findings needs to be done. They also warn of the potential de-stabilising effects on society.

The study of nearly 1,000 men aged 45 to 59 in Caerphilly and neighbouring villages found those who reported "high orgasmic frequency" - twice a week or more - had half the risk of dying over the next 10 years compared with those who had ``low orgasmic frequency", less than once a month. The men were questioned as part of a larger study between 1979 and 1983 and 150 of them died in the next 10 years. The researchers found that the risk of dying was directly related to the number of orgasms - the more they had the lower the risk.

George Davey Smith and Stephen Frankel, professors of epidemiology at Bristol University, and Dr John Yarnell of Queens University, Belfast, say in the British Medical Journal, that their finding is in line with most previous research which has shown that longevity is linked with frequency of sex in men but with enjoyment of intercourse in women.

The finding runs counter to much folk wisdom that the pleasure of male intercourse is secured at the cost of wellbeing. In the early 20th century the idea that sexual restraint preserved vigour gained scientific respectability. The poet WB Yeats was one of the most famous patients to undergo an operation known as the Steinach procedure to tie the vas deferens - the tube linking the testicles with the penis. This produced a physiological form of celibacy said to stimulate sexual performance. In Yeats case it appears to have been successful as he became known to Dubliners as "the gland old man".

In a commentary on the Caerphilly study two specialists from Kings College School of Medicine, London pour cold water on the findings. They say that declining sexual activity could be a sign rather than a cause of ill health leading to death. "Sexual activity is downstream in the direction of causality from disease."