Having sex less frequently is linked to earlier menopause, according to a new study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. Which is good or bad news, I guess, depending on how you feel about either sex or menopause.
Researchers analyzed data from a 10-year national study of almost 3,000 women and found that women who engaged in sexual activity every week were 28 percent less likely to have experienced menopause than those having sex less than once a month. “Similarly, those who had sex monthly were 19% less likely to have attained menopause—defined as 12 months without a period—than those who had sex less than once a month,” reports CNN.
Notably, the researchers defined sexual activity as including masturbation, so the generalized menopause link applies to solo sex as well as partnered sex; and the definition of partnered sex was broad enough to include “sexual touching or caressing.”
Although the study controlled for many others factors, such as estrogen levels and BMI, it did not prove causation. Instead, researchers simply found a correlation between less sex and earlier menopause. So, it isn’t at all possible to declare from these results: “Have more sexual activity if you don’t want earlier menopause” or “Have less sexual activity if you want earlier menopause.”
If a clear causal link is found, though, the implications are significant, because premature menopause (before age 40) or early menopause (between the ages of 40 and 45) carries with it increased risks of mortality, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as other neurological and psychiatric diseases. And, although it’s inevitable, menopause itself carries the risk of uncomfortable hot flashes, mood swings, and disturbed sleep. That said, some are eager for the benefits of menopause: no more periods or PMS or pregnancy risk.
Researchers speculate from the results that the body might take hints from frequent sex that there is a possibility of reproducing, with which menopause would obviously interfere. Earlier menopause in those who aren’t frequently having sex could, effectively, be a consolidation of bodily resources, they suggest. “If you’re not going to reproduce, there’s no point ovulating—you’re better off using that energy elsewhere,” said lead author Megan Arnot.
She added that the link found here represents “a promising avenue for future research and could open the door on behavioral interventions.” Presumably, she means boning.