Here's one more reason for women to have more sex: According to a study, active sex life can help delay menopause
Before menopause women are at lower risk for a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease and osteoporosis.
Women who have sex often may go through menopause a little bit later than those who have sex less than once a month. A recent study by the University College London (UCL) has found that all kinds of sexual activity — oral sex, vaginal penetration, anal sex, masturbation, and sexual touching and caressing (second or third base) — can help delay menopause and have a positive health outcome for some women.
Before menopause women are at lower risk for a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease and osteoporosis. Many women also gain weight after menopause, and weight gain triggers its own set of health problems.
The average age of Indian women at menopause is 46.2 years, compared with 51 years among women in the West.
What does sex have to do with it?
The researchers at UCL took data from the US’s Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) - the largest longitudinal study on the effects of menopause on women’s health. Here's what they found: women who reported having sex frequently (once a month or more) had a 19% lower incidence of early menopause, compared with those who limited sexual activity to less than once a month.
The researchers said these findings tell us something new about the link between active sex life and good health: less frequent sexual activity tells the body that there is a low likelihood of pregnancy, so the body can invest its energies in places other than the reproductive system.
Biologically, the body invests a good deal of resources in preparing itself for pregnancy and giving birth. The possibility of nurturing a child shifts the body's priorities a little. For instance, during ovulation, there is a higher likelihood of contracting infections since the body's immunity is not as strong. If there is a low possibility of getting pregnant, however, the study suggests that the body induces earlier menopause so it can focus more on other functions.
One important thing to remember is that the study does not indicate causation: there are various other factors that determine the onset of menopause and this is a small piece of the puzzle.
It's all part of evolution
The researchers said that their finding supports an earlier hypothesis - the somewhat unfortunately named grandmother hypothesis. The idea is that women who are less likely to conceive give up the ability to do so. Evolutionarily, the hypothesis suggests, this mechanism reduces inter-generational competition to conceive and potentially gears older women towards looking after their grandchildren.
Who was in this study?
The UCL study recruited 2,936 women and continuously collected data from them starting in 1996-97. On average, the participants were 45 years old, 78% of them were married or had a partner, 46% were in perimenopause — on the cusp of menopause — and the remaining 54% had not yet experienced any signs of menopause.
The women answered surveys on their sexual lives: whether they had sex, and the frequency of it, the kind of sex acts they performed, and if they practised self-pleasure. More than half the women (64%) reported having sex at least weekly.
The study controlled for various factors such as body-mass index (BMI), race, oestrogen levels, education levels, the occurrence of first menstruation cycle - all of which have been shown to impact the age of menopause. The results showed differences even between those who had sex weekly as opposed to those who did it monthly.
While more research needs to be done on the mechanisms involved in the female reproductive cycle, this was a well-designed study with a happy conclusion: women should have sex monthly. Better yet, they should have sex weekly; pleasure themselves when they can. There are only upsides to safe sex with one partner, or even on their own!
For more on this topic, please read our article on the Benefits of Sex.
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