The Multiple Links Between Sex and Stress

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Sex and stress are linked in several ways. Most of us instinctively know this already and feel it unmistakably when a particularly stressful week or two zaps us of our sex drive.

But while stress can have a hand in low libido, it can also be a great stress reliever, which is why jokes about uptight bosses needing a good roll in the hay are always good for at least one knowing chuckle. Have you ever wondered how much truth there was to the idea that a healthy sex life works nicely as a stress salve? Here’s some research on stress and sex.

Good Sex and Good Mood

In an Arizona State University study on 58 middle-aged women, physical affection or sexual behavior with a partner significantly predicted lower negative mood and stress, and higher positive mood the following day.

Simply put, researchers found that sex and physical intimacy led women to feel less stressed and be in a better mood the next day. These results weren’t found when women had orgasms without a partner.

Good Mood and Good Sex

The same study found that being in a good mood predicted more physical affection and sexual activity with a partner the next day, showing that the sex-stress management connection works both ways: sex can lead you to feel less stressed, and being less stressed (or at least in a better mood) can lead to more sex. This is further proof of the importance of effective stress management.

Sex and Blood Pressure

Another study examined participants’ blood pressure as a measure of their stress responses during public speaking or challenging math problems—situations that often elicit stress. It was found that those who had recently had intercourse tended to have either lower baseline blood pressures, less of a blood pressure rise during stressful events, or both.

These findings suggest that having sex can lead to less of a stress response during challenging situations, which is a good thing.

Sex and Stress Response

Along those lines, another study looked at women’s heart rate and cortisol levels as a measure of stress response and found that women exhibited less of a stress response after ‘positive physical contact’ with a partner. Emotional support alone didn’t have the same effect.

Orgasm and Health

Orgasm itself has many benefits for health and stress relief. It can relax your body and release many hormones that are supportive of your overall health and wellness. This type of relaxation can also be great emotionally.

Aside from these scientific findings, sex has some obvious stress management components. In addition to effectively taking your mind off of your worries for a decent period of time, sex provides some of these other stress management benefits:

Deep Breathing

This deep, relaxed type of breathing releases tension and reduces the stress you feel. It's true that you can simply perform breathing exercises on your own and achieve stress management benefits, but combining the benefits of breathing exercises with the pleasure and intimacy of sex with a loving partner can be so enjoyable, why not do both?

Sense of Touch

Studies show that massage can be a great stress reliever. In fact, we need touch for our emotional health; studies also show that babies who are not touched enough can fail to thrive, and touch continues to be important into adulthood.

This type of relaxing—loving touch—you can exchange with a good partner can be a great stress reliever as well.

Social Support

People who have a supportive social outlet tend to manage stress better, live longer, and enjoy increased overall health. The type of emotional intimacy that sex can help supply is good for you.


Sexual activity releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones. (You may be surprised by how many, and what they do.) These chemicals can relax your body and mind, leaving you feeling better for hours afterward.

Physical Workout

Depending on your level of enthusiasm, you can burn a lot of calories during sex, and gain the stress management benefits of exercise as well. Unfortunately, many people find that, when they’re under stress, their sex drive suffers.

Luckily, with a little intention and effort, it is possible to get in the mood for sex even when you feel too stressed.

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