WEDNESDAY, Jan. 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) — For women, a humdrum sex life might also mean an earlier onset of menopause, a new study suggests.
British researchers who tracked the sex lives and menopausal status of nearly 3,000 American women for a decade found that those who had less sex were more likely to begin menopause at an earlier age.
Women’s bodies may react to a lessening of sexual activity on a “use it or lose it” basis, the research team theorized.
“The findings of our study suggest that if a woman is not having sex, and there is no chance of pregnancy, then the body ‘chooses’ not to invest in ovulation, as it would be pointless,” explained study first author Megan Arnot.
“There may be a biological energetic trade-off between investing energy into ovulation and investing elsewhere, such as keeping active by looking after grandchildren,” said Arnot. She’s a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at University College London.
One U.S. expert said it highlights another possible “plus” to good sexual health for women.
“Doctors have long known that there were many benefits from continued sexual activity,” said Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
She pointed out that a later menopause can mean stronger bones and better cholesterol levels.
Wu also pointed out that, according to the study, “sexual activity associated with later menopause also encompasses oral sex, fondling, and masturbation,” and she added that “even women without a partner can reap the benefits of later menopause.”
In the study, Arnot’s group analyzed data from nearly 3,000 women who were first interviewed at age 45 in 1996-1997. None had yet entered menopause, but 46% were starting to have “perimenopausal” symptoms, such as changes in their period cycle and hot flashes (perimenopause). Fifty-four percent had no signs of perimenopause.
During more than 10 years of follow-up, 45% of the women began natural menopause, with the average age of onset being 52.
The study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect. However, compared to women who had sex less than at least once per month, those who had sex weekly were 28% less likely to begin menopause at any age, and those who had sex monthly were 19% less likely.