Friday, May 25, 2007

Sex and Longevity

Greetings,

Recently a flurry of news reports have appeared in the media, claiming that sexual activity increases human lifespan:

A study conducted by Queens University in Belfast, Ireland, found that sex on a regular basis is not only healthy for our bodies but also improves our overall length of life.

The study was published in 1997 in the British Medical Journal and tracked the mortality of about 1,000 middle-aged men over the course of a decade. The study compared men of comparable age and health and found that men who had the highest frequency of orgasm had a death rate half that of the other men who did not orgasm frequently.

Well, here is the original study:

-------------------------------------------

BMJ: British Medical Journal, International Edition

BMJ
1997;315:1641-1644 (20 December)

Sex and death: are they related? Findings from the Caerphilly cohort study

George Davey Smith, professor of clinical epidemiology,a Stephen Frankel, professor of epidemiology and public health medicine,a John Yarnell, senior lecturer b

a Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 2PR, b Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast BT12 6BJ

Objective: To examine the relation between frequency of orgasm and mortality.

Study design: Cohort study with a 10 year follow up.

Setting: The town of Caerphilly, South Wales, and five adjacent villages.

Subjects: 918 men aged 45-59 at time of recruitment between 1979 and 1983.

Main outcome measures: All deaths and deaths from coronary heart disease.

Result: Mortality risk was 50% lower in the group with high orgasmic frequency than in the group with low orgasmic frequency, with evidence of a dose-response relation across the groups. Age adjusted odds ratio for all cause mortality was 2.0 for the group with low frequency of orgasm (95% confidence interval 1.1 to 3.5, test for trend P=0.02). With adjustment for risk factors this became 1.9 (1.0 to 3.4, test for trend P=0.04). Death from coronary heart disease and from other causes showed similar associations with frequency of orgasm, although the gradient was most marked for deaths from coronary heart disease. Analysed in terms of actual frequency of orgasm, the odds ratio for total mortality associated with an increase in 100 orgasms per year was 0.64 (0.44 to 0.95).

Conclusion: Sexual activity seems to have a protective effect on men's health.



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My Comment:
Not sure why the media have chosen to put in the News this study published 10 years ago, but anyway, have a nice weekend and enjoy the holidays in the most healthy way!
See also:
Longevity Science: LOVE
A word of caution:
Even if these findings are correct, they are open to interpretation, because of reversed causality possible. In other words, it is possible that it is not the higher sexual activity that causes a better health, but the reversed situation -- having a better health causes a higher sexual activity among particularly healthy men.
How can we disentangle these two alternative hypotheses?
Post your ideas here!


Key words:
Sex, Death, Mortality, Caerphilly cohort study, orgasm, coronary heart disease, men's health, longevity, Sexual Activity, human lifespan, love

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21 Comments:

Anonymous John Schloendorn said...

"How can we disentangle these two alternative hypotheses?"
Randomize the study... volunteers? anyone?

2:08 PM  
Blogger Ilia said...

It seems the Caerphilly study is either incorrect or at the very best a case of reversed causality. A clear evidence for this is the consistently higher longevity of monks. See, for example, B. Jenner’s “Changes in average life span of monks and nuns in Poland in the years 1950-2000” (2002), de Gouw HW et al. “Decreased mortality among contemplative monks in The Netherlands” (1995) or Marc Luy “Do women live longer or do men die earlier?” (2006). According to the latter study, monks lived 5 years longer than average men (though no differences were found for women).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=12183972&query_hl=101&itool=pubmed_docsum
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=7709920&query_hl=103&itool=pubmed_docsum
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=12395236&query_hl=4&itool=pubmed_docsum
http://www.klosterstudie.de/index-Dateien/english_guide.htm

Monks are normal, healthy men, and with all the other things equal, their abstinence might be a positive factor for longevity, favoring the “reversed causality” thesis.

Also, Caerphilly study seems to contradict the Disposable Soma theory. Isn’t the “vigorous sexual activity” is what causes exhaustion and lands the antechinus in the box? See also Jens Rolff and Michael Siva-Jothy’ “Copulation corrupts immunity: a mechanism for a cost of mating in insects” (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jul 23;99(15):9916-8).
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?CMD=search&DB=pubmed

Not to mention this study contradicts a vast tradition advising on sexual moderation, from Aristotle’s “On the duration of live” and Taoist physicians, all the way through hygienists (like Cornaro and Huffeland) until our time. For recent examples of this attitude see Edwin Flatto “Warning: Sex May Be Hazardous to Your Health” (1977) or David Pratt’s “Sex and Sexuality” (2004)
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dp5/flatto.htm
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dp5/sex3.htm

Of course the hygienists didn’t use much statistics, but they were astute observers and understood a thing or two about health regimens.

How representative is the Caerphilly study? Its sample size is by an order of magnitude less than that of Marc Luy’s “Cloister Monks/Nuns study”. The Caerphilly study examines 918 men aged 45-59, with a 10 year follow up. Thus, it disregards earlier sexual habits and activities that might be determinative for the life-span. This may even be a case of “delayed reproduction.” What is the effect on the actual life-span? It may well be that a short-term increase in well-being is followed by rapid deterioration (the famous Brown-Sequard’s case).

It thus seems that this is a single, rather indeterminate, study contradicting a large body of observations. A possible reason it has been making the headlines for the past 10 years is that it helps sell hedonistic life-style and makes us feel good about ourselves. I wish it were correct, but even if (most likely) it is not, sometimes one just doesn’t care about possible longevity gains…

Ilia Stambler

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Harris said...

Ilia wrote about Monks and normalcy

I must point out that celibacy is not practiced in deeds as much as it is preached in words. Even the catholic church is grappling with the shameful accusations and pays out millions from defending it's pedofile priesthood.

Hope that does across as respectful but truthful and must be included in any serious analysis.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Dr. Leonid Gavrilov, Ph.D. said...

I would agree that Monk studies are difficult to interpret, but for a different reason -- the prevalence of smoking, drug abuse, heavy alcoholism, physical violence and other unhealthy habits is probably lower in Monks.

Therefore the effect of abstinence on longevity is confounded by many other life-style variables (like smoking prevalence), that need to be taken into consideration.

2:07 PM  
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Anonymous Pearly penile papules said...

Unlike women, men do not readily discuss personal medical conditions and disorders with their friends. It is for this reason that pearly penile papules are very misunderstood.

It is not surprising that you would be plagued by worry and paranoia at the appearance of a bump on the rim of your penis. Immediately you would suspect venereal disease or even worse, cancer. The likelihood is that you do not have either, but rather a simple case of pearly penile papules. Pearly penile papules are very common among men, especially uncircumcised men. They are not as a result of bad hygiene and are not contagious in any way whatsoever. Many men actually find that they appear and disappear without any treatment at all.

However, if you are feeling uncomfortable with them, they can be effectively removed with a simple treatment of radiofrequency surgery. You should however consult your doctor and have them seen to should they emit a discharge or are physically painful.

5:03 AM  
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3:19 AM  
Blogger moly said...

We should appoint full time paid volunteers (for several years) to test this hypothesis.At frequent intervals we could monitor the structural,physiological and biochemical changes.

12:31 PM  
Blogger moly said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Please have a look at the new ideas.

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