Sex has unique health benefits for chronically stressed moms, study finds

June 10, 2024  16:37

A new study revealed that sex can help mothers of young children stave off the damaging effects of stress, particularly metabolic disorders. In moms of kids with autism spectrum disorder, the findings showed that those who regularly engaged in sexual activity showed higher levels of healthy metabolic hormones than sexually inactive moms.

Long-term stress is hard on the body, raising the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, stroke and obesity. Meanwhile, research has shown that any amount of added physical activity can help prevent such diseases.

Researchers asked 183 women aged 20 to 50, with at least one child between the ages of 2 and 16, to partake in regular Perceived Stress Scale assessments over two years. During each assessment period, participants would be asked to do 7-day diary questionnaires and clinic visits to collect health data, including blood samples to key metabolic indicators, including insulin, insulin resistance, leptin and ghrelin.

 The final two assessments were most consequential to the research as they were the only ones to focus on questions about sex, asking moms each day if they’d engaged in sexual activity the night before, while also measuring for related variables such as overall relationship satisfaction and levels of physical activity everyday life. Those who reported having sex at least once during the week-long assessment period were considered sexually active. Once the data had been collected, a total of 101 women had shown they were either consistently sexually active or consistently inactive.

Mothers who cared for at least one child with ASD were lumped into the “high-stress” group, with all other moms assigned “low-stress.”

Overall, highly stressed moms were more likely to show higher levels of insulin and insulin resistance and lower levels of ghrelin compared to low-stress mothers — except when sexual activity was a factor. Compared to the low-stress group, sexually inactive high-stress moms fared far worse than those who had more sex. In contrast, all sexually active moms demonstrated similar metabolic profiles regardless of stress group.

Researchers hope their findings can contribute to a wider understanding of the health benefits of sex.

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