From better sleep to cancer prevention, science has confirmed that masturbation is good for you. But, things didn’t always look so bright. Once called a “grave disorder” by the Catholic Church and technically forbidden in Judaism, masturbation has a complicated history. During the Victorian age, this common act—which is practiced by 92 percent of American men and 76 percent of women—was linked to health challenges like epilepsy, depression, tuberculosis, blindness, insanity, sterility and early death. Victorians also thought that foul odors spread diseases and leeches cured them. So, there were some blind spots.
Despite this complicated history and the general reticence (or discomfort) many people still have when probed on the topic, science is loud and clear: masturbation side effects are overwhelmingly positive. Here are some health benefits of masturbation and why you should probably do it more often.
When people become stressed, their cortisol levels increase, but masturbation helps by producing endorphins that combat this cortisol. In a study of heterosexual men, 52 percent of participants occasionally used masturbation to relieve stress, reporting increased clarity, relaxation and calm. Some doctors even recommend masturbation as an effective stress reliever at work.
Dr. Nicole Prause, creator of Liberos, a sexual biotechnology company that studies the brain during orgasm, conducted a study on the link between orgasm and sleep and found that 200 of 300 participants found orgasms helpful in sleep latency (or, how quickly they fell asleep). This is believed to be a result of chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin, which make people feel safe, relaxed and euphoric.
Enhanced Cognitive Function
Research has found that sexual activity, which can include masturbation, is associated with better cognitive function. Professor Barry Komisaruk of Rutgers University claims that orgasms affect 80 different regions of the brain, helping with memory recall and warding off dementia. He told The Sun, “Unlike almost any other activity, orgasm is literally a whole brain experience. Mental exercises increase brain activity but only in localized regions. Orgasms activate the whole.”
By flushing out old and potentially flawed sperm from the reproductive tract, masturbation increases sperm quality by promoting younger sperm. Research found that ejaculating daily for seven days increased sperm motility.
Menstrual Pain Relief
When you orgasm, your body releases dopamine and oxytocin—a natural pain reliever that can relieve even the worst period cramps. Orgasms also strengthen the pelvic floor and improve blood flow to the genitals. To make things even better, a study from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville found that women experienced greater satisfaction from orgasms during their menstruation cycles.
Prostate Cancer Prevention
Two relatively large studies found that high ejaculation frequency protected against prostate cancer, especially for men over 50. Men who ejaculated 21 or more times a month experienced a 33 percent lower risk of prostate cancer compared with men who reported only four to seven ejaculations a month throughout their lifetimes. Some believe this decrease is attributed to masturbation flushing out carcinogenic toxins the way flawed sperm gets flushed out.
Stronger Immune System
By affecting cortisol levels, masturbation doesn’t just reduce stress, it also strengthens the immune system. The act has been linked to lowering risk of type-2 diabetes and preventing cervical infections in women through the process of tenting, the opening of the cervix that accompanies the arousal process and facilitates fluid circulation. Even more, masturbation decreases feelings of depression, which can also compromise the immune system.
Research has shown that one of the best ways for a woman to become comfortable with her body is to explore it. A study at Radford University showed that there is a positive correlation between masturbation and sexuality, including increased self-esteem in women through body awareness.
In a study of 99 female students aged 20 to 25 years old at Reykjavík University, researchers found that participants who masturbated regularly had significantly higher levels of sexual satisfaction than those who do not masturbate regularly. In a separate study by TENGA of 2,000 U.K. adults, men who masturbated weekly were more confident in their sexual performance than men who did not masturbate. And 12 percent of participants claimed a better quality orgasm, not just making the men better lovers to their partners, but more sexually satisfied overall.
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