While most people appreciate sex because it builds intimacy, because it is pleasurable, because it is healthy, and because it is fun, a new study has found yet another reason why sex can be good for you.
The study which was conducted by a group of researchers from The Manchester University found that older adults who were still sexually active had better memory and overall greater levels of mental functioning. The study was published in the journal Age and Aging in November 2015 and is one of the rare studies to find a link between sex and cognition.
The burden of dementia
An estimate 46.8 million people worldwide currently live with dementia according to Alzheimer’s Disease International. This number will most likely double in the next 20 years which is why dementia and age-related cognitive decline, in general, has been receiving such widespread attention. Researchers are looking for ways to help people maintain their cognitive functioning well into old age. Many lifestyle and dietary factors were found to play a role in brain health, but not many studies focused on the role sexual activity can play in our mental functioning. The Manchester University study is one of the rare studies that have focused on the relationship between sex and cognition, and the findings can reveal much about how our brain works.
About The Manchester University study
The researchers from The Manchester University Study may have found a way on how to improve memory with sex. The researchers used data from the Wave 6 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to explore the association between sexual activity and cognitive functioning.
The study included a total of 6,833 subjects between 58 and 89 years of age.
The subjects performed two tests for cognitive functioning: number sequencing to reveal their levels of executive functioning and world recall which revealed their memory. After adjusting for other factors such as age, education, wealth, health, depression, and general quality of life, the researchers found that men who were sexually active showed greater levels of cognitive functioning and memory, but for women, only memory seemed to be strongly related to sexual activity.
What the researchers say
According to the researchers from this study, theirs is not the first study to prove that greater levels of sexual activity had a positive effect on male cognitive functioning. Most studies of this kind tend to focus on the effects sex has on the male brain, and they analyzed general cognitive functioning. This was the first study to focus on specific mental abilities, namely sequencing and memory. This was also the first study to find there were differences in the way sex affected the male and the female brain. The researchers also offered some possible explanations why sex seems to impact brain functioning.
Sex and sex hormones have a profound effect on health, and this has been documented through research. Sexual activity alters hormone levels and these leads to changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters, dopamine, and oxytocin in particular. The association was strongest with dopamine that seems to regulate sexual behavior.
The gender differences in hormones may also explain why the scores on different cognitive tests were different for men and women. However, these are only theoretical assumptions and the real reasons why sex positively impacts mental functioning could be social and emotional, rather than biological.
A previous study published in the 2010 issue of PLOS One that was carried out on male rats examined the effects sexual activity had on the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a small region at the base of the brain most responsible for learning and memory. The study in question found that although the rats experienced greater levels of stress due to acute sexual activity, regular sexual activity seems to result in a stress-relieving effect and resulted in a greater number of neurons in the hippocampus.
This study suggests that regular sexual activity can reduce stress and anxiety which are associated with worsening of mental functioning and even depression. Chronic stress is associated with adverse health outcomes such as poor immune system functioning, mental illness, cardiovascular diseases, sexual dysfunction such as premature ejaculation.
While the study from The Manchester University is yet another study to prove that more sex means better mental functioning, it is still too early to conclude that sex is the antidote for dementia. Greater levels of sexual activity may alter the brain’s neurotransmitters in a way that enhances cognitive functioning.
Sex may also be an indicator of greater partner intimacy and as such mean that the person is experiencing a greater quality of life and lower levels of stress. Stress is recognized not only as a mood killer but also as a detrimental factor for overall health, and that includes brain health as well.
Author Bio: Sophie Addison is a popular blogger and skincare expert. She is very passionate about writing on skincare and beauty. She is an active contributor of many health and lifestyle blogs including glozine lifestyle.
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