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Can sexual inactivity weaken your immune system?

This article was published on
June 21, 2021

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Abstinence or not having sex is a personal choice and can be for any reason. There is nothing wrong with not having sex and there are no known negative side effects. Social media and messaging may sometimes shame people who choose to not have sex, but not having sex is not a dysfunctionality. While there are a few studies that have looked at the effects of sexual activity and health, there is no scientific evidence that validates claims that not having sex for a long time can weaken one’s immune system.

Abstinence or not having sex is a personal choice and can be for any reason. There is nothing wrong with not having sex and there are no known negative side effects. Social media and messaging may sometimes shame people who choose to not have sex, but not having sex is not a dysfunctionality. While there are a few studies that have looked at the effects of sexual activity and health, there is no scientific evidence that validates claims that not having sex for a long time can weaken one’s immune system.

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What our experts say

There is no scientifically available data that suggests sexual inactivity can harm the immune system.

One study that was conducted in 2004 suggested that people who had sex one to two times per week had more immunoglobin (an antibody that helps prevent illness) in their saliva than people who had infrequent sex. However, antibody levels do not necessarily indicate how well the immune system is able to carry out its core functions. Moreover, the study has not been repeated since.

Another study that researched the interaction between sexual activity, menstrual cycle phases, and immune functions in healthy women found different patterns of change in immune function across the menstrual cycle between sexually active and abstinent women. 

Yet another study from 2017 analyzed the sexual activities of 17,744 individuals. It reported that nearly one in six men and more than one in four women had reported sexlessness for over a year, and a majority of them reported not having sex for 5 or more years. The study found similar happiness levels and no significant overall physical health difference between the sexually active and sexually inactive people.

More research is needed to find confirm if sexual activity has any bearing on one’s immune system.

Context and background

Some social media articles are claiming that not having sex for a long time weakens your immune system. This is not based on scientifically available data. Not having sex has not been shown to have any negative side effects.

Resources

  1. 9 FAQs About Abstinence (HealthLine)
  2. Does sex provide health benefits? (Medical News Today)
  3. Sexual Frequency and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA) (Psychology Reports- Sage Journals)
  4. How does celibacy affect your health? (Medical News Today)
  5. Sociodemographic Correlates of Sexlessness Among American Adults and Associations with Self-Reported Happiness Levels: Evidence from the U.S. General Social Survey (Archives of Sexual Behavior) 
  6. Interactions Among Sexual Activity, Menstrual Cycle Phase, and Immune Function in Healthy Women (The Journal of Sex Research)

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