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While a regular sex life has been shown to boost mood and improve relationships, it turns out that having sex once a week can also prolong your life, according to a new study.
Researchers in the small study, first published in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, compared the length of telomeres, which are DNA strand protectors. The shorter the telomeres, the more likely a person is to develop a degenerative disease or die young, lead researcher Tomás Cabeza de Baca of the University of California, San Francisco, told PsyPost.org.
The study looked at 129 mothers in committed relationships over the course of a week to assess overall relationship satisfaction, stress, partner support and intimacy. Women reporting sexual relations at least once during the week had significantly longer telomeres. This held true even when adjusting for other factors such as perceived stress and relationship quality.
“There are so many exciting questions to ask regarding sexual intimacy’s role in health!” Baca told PsyPost. “One major question that needs to be addressed involves hypothesizing how the effects of sexual intimacy may translate to better health. There are many physiological and psychosocial mechanisms that may mediate the sex-telomere relationship. For instance, we proposed that sexual intimacy may dampen the effects of stress by down-regulating stress response systems and up-regulating immune response. Over time, these patterns of stress function should result in longer telomere length.”
The researchers note that the study is small and observational and that the correlation could be because the healthiest women are the most sexually active, not the other way around. They said the study should also be expanded to include men.
Positive attitudes about aging help in the bedroom
In related news, a separate study shows that having a positive attitude about aging can improve your sex life. Researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario published a study analyzing the data from a 10-year national survey in Canada. The authors found that while participants did report a drop in frequency, quality and interest in sex over time, having “positive aging attitudes predicted increased ratings for quality of sex.”
In other words, feeling younger than you really are may improve the quality of your romantic life, even if it doesn't increase the quantity. Researchers studied questionnaire responses of 1,170 adults over the age of 40 to look at participants’ subjective age, which is the difference between actual age and the age they feel, as well as the frequency and quality of their sex lives.
“If you feel good about getting older, and if you feel younger than you are when you do get older, you're more likely to have better-quality sex later in life," study author Amy Estill told the CBC. “And it's something that's often not considered for older adults because there is a stigma around it. Having a positive attitude about aging and feeling young at heart can have a real impact in the bedroom as you age.”