Inside The Mental Health Benefits Of Sex

When it comes to the health benefits of sex, the list is very long. But as much as we hear about the physical benefits, it's important that we not turn a blind eye to the mental health benefits that sex also has to offer. Believe it or not, that list is pretty darn long too.


"Our sexuality and our expression of it is an integral part of who we are," clinical sexologist Dr. Martha Lee told Elite Daily. "In Chinese medicine, sexual energy has long been associated with the basis of a person's emotional well-being. Increasingly, more people are acknowledging that sex has an important role toward our sense of well-being as well as quality of life." In other words, sex is a form of self-care that you shouldn't be ignoring.

Whether you have it with a partner or roll solo, what matters is that you're having regular sex and experiencing all those feel-good hormones. Those are the ticket to getting closer to mental health bliss.

Decreases depression, anxiety, and stress

According to a 2021 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, regular sexual activity is fantastic for decreasing stress, depression, and anxiety. This particular study was conducted during the COVID-19 lockdown, a time when the majority of the world was mentally suffering in one way or another. Still, those who were regularly engaging in sex were healthier mentally — so much so that the researchers went so far as to call the sexual activity a "protective effect."


So while it's great that so many of us learned how to bake bread or picked up other new hobbies to keep our mind from focusing on the chaos that surrounded us, apparently we should have been having sex and/or masturbating as often as we could. It should also be pointed out that when your depression and anxiety are significantly decreased, it's much easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, resulting in the high-quality shuteye that makes daytime functioning easier. If you have sex before bed, you'll reap those benefits even more.

Improves self-esteem and intimacy

In a culture that's constantly dictating how we're supposed to look, feel, and act, trying to summon the necessary amount of confidence to get through the day isn't easy. It takes a lot of work and it's important to understand that self-esteem looks and feels different for different people. But sex, especially when it's with a regular partner or ourselves (as in masturbation), can help elevate how we perceive ourselves as members of society, and redefine our personal narratives for the better.


"Just having a healthy sex life can boost self-esteem, self-confidence, and your ability to experience pleasure," psychologist Kia-Rai Prewitt, PhD told Cleveland Health Clinic. "But it also helps to connect with your partner and develop emotional intimacy." Sex gives us the opportunity to appreciate our bodies in new and exciting ways. It also allows for vulnerability which, when experienced with a partner, is great for all types of intimacy and relationship satisfaction.

It completes us

Before you flip the closest desk because this might sound like a bunch of malarkey, let's unpack what this really means. Can you live without sex? Absolutely, and many people do for a slew of reasons. However, if we look at Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, sex is a basic need and on the first tier along with breathing, sleeping, eating, and drinking water. While sex may not be a physiological need, it is a psychological one — as evidenced above — and is essential in creating wholeness within our psyche.


According to a 2022 study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, sexual wholeness is comprised of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. When we have these three elements, we feel safe, connected, and in control of our entire beings. Not to overly simplify things, but if those components are intact, what's a better mental health feeling than that?

As much as sex offers lots of mental health benefits, it's certainly not a cure-all and some issues need medical attention. But just know, as long as you do it safely (condoms!) and consent is involved, sex and masturbation can sometimes really turn a stressful day around, giving you the little confidence boost you need.