The benefits of orgasm to the mind and body are undeniable, but the masturbation gap (and subsequent orgasm gap) in the United States is real. A recent study determined that across age groups, 73.8 percent of men reported masturbation compared to only 48.1 percent of women. In certain age groups, the percentage of men reporting to masturbate more than doubled that of women. In addition to the many health benefits of orgasm, masturbation among adolescents is associated with healthy levels of self-esteem and positive sexual experiences later in life.
So why aren’t more women practicing “self-care?”
Women and girls face a number of physical and societal obstacles to sexual expression, including a tendency to prioritize their partner’s sexual gratification over their own and a lack of education regarding the female reproductive organs and female pleasure. But with benefits like these, we recommend that everyone spend a little more time focusing on themselves.
The Physical Benefits of Orgasm
Dodge the effects of menopause. A less-than-desirable result of menopause is vaginal atrophy, when a drop in estrogen levels causes the vagina to produce less natural lubricant. This dryness can cause discomfort, but increased blood flow to the area during orgasm helps maintain a healthy vaginal epithelium, increasing vaginal elasticity and lubrication.
Improve cardiac health. The sexual response cycle raises (sometimes drastically) your breathing and heart rates. While we aren’t suggesting you entirely forgo aerobic exercise for me-time, an intense session of solo or partnered intimacy may give your heart a workout.
Relieve menstrual cramps. Orgasms trigger the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone.” Among oxytocin’s many superpowers is its ability to increase pain thresholds. Orgasms increase blood flow to the genitals, further enhancing pain tolerance, so period cramps may vanish during the “big O.”
Prevent infection. Orgasms help prevent cervical and urinary tract infections by opening the cervix, or tenting. The cervix stretches, therefore stretching the cervical mucus and creating openings that allow cervical fluids containing bacteria to leave the body.
Increase pelvic floor strength. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that sit like a bowl within the pelvis and support your pelvic organs (the bladder, bowel and uterus in women and the bladder and bowel in men). A strong pelvic floor prevents incontinence, reduces the risk of vaginal and rectal prolapse (when the pelvic organs begin to protrude near the vaginal and rectal openings as the body ages), increases stability and balance in the core and promotes faster healing after childbirth.
Release dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). It’s a mouthful, but DHEA packs a big punch. This steroid hormone, often referred to as a “super hormone,” improves muscle strength, bone density, reduces body fat and promotes the production of collagen and sebum, fighting age-related deterioration of the skin. In one study, DHEA even induced remission in the majority of participants with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The Mental Benefits of Orgasm
Improve cognitive function as you age. In a recent study, participants between the ages of 50 and 83 completed a cognitive assessment and questionnaire on the frequency of their sexual activity (never, weekly or monthly). It turns out that frequent sexual activity was strongly associated with higher cognitive function.
Reduce stress and improve social connectivity. The ‘love hormone’ doesn’t just circumvent Aunt Flow’s unwelcome monthly gifts – oxytocin lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels resulting in a powerful stress-reduction effect. When released into certain parts of the brain, oxytocin encourages “pro-social behaviors” by contributing to trust, empathy and psychological stability.
Better sleep.Orgasms release the antidiuretic hormone which accompanies the release of its better-known counterpart, melatonin. Along with the serotonin and dopamine released during orgasm, these chemicals work together to promote healthy REM sleep and improve mental outlook.
Higher self-esteem and empathy. Healthy self-esteem and higher empathy are associated with the regularity of orgasms and enjoyment of giving and receiving certain sexual acts. The scientists at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted a study that hypothesizes that “empathetic individuals are more responsive to a partner’s needs, and thus initiate a positive feedback cycle.” And who couldn’t use a little positive feedback every now and then?
No two people are identical when it comes to the social and physical determinants of achieving orgasm. Case in point: 9 out of 10 young men report having an orgasm most or every time they have sex with a partner, while less than half of young women report the same. But whatever it takes to get you there, orgasms bring physical, psychological and social well-being, so carve out some time for yourself today.