Comment: Vaginal or anal sex was found to be associated with a lower risk of mortality from all cause and cancer.

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Published: June 12, 2020, 1-11

Chao Cao, MPH,1,2 Lin Yang, PhD,3,4 Tianlin Xu, MPH,5 Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD,6 Qinran Liu, MPH,7
Daragh McDermott, PhD,8 Nicola Veronese, MD,9 Thomas Waldhoer, PhD,10 Petre Cristian Ilie, MD, PhD, MBA,11
Shahrokh F. Shariat, MD,12 and Lee Smith, PhD13


Background: Sexual activity can be referred to as a health behavior and may also act as an indicator of health status.

Aim: To evaluate temporal trends in sexual activity and to examine associations of sexual activity with all-cause and cause-specific mortality risk.

Methods: We examined the trends and prevalence of sexual activity and association of sexual activity with all cause and cause-specific mortality in a nationally representative sample using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2016 and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2014 Linked Mortality File (through December 31, 2015).

Outcomes: All-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality.

Results: A total of 15,269 US adults (mean age, 39.1 years [standard error, 0.18 years]) were included in the trend analysis. In the 2015-2016 cycle, while 71.7% (95% CI, 67.7e75.7%) US adults aged 20-59 years engaged in sexual activity  12 times/year (monthly), only 36.1% (95% CI, 31.6e40.7%) of them engaged in sexual activity  52 times/year (weekly). Since the 2005e2006 cycle, the estimated prevalence of sexual activity, 52 times/year and 12 times/year, were both stable over time among overall and each age group (all P for trend >0.1). During a median follow-up of 5.7 years (range, 1-11 years) and 71,960 person-years of observation, among 12,598 participants with eligible information on mortality status, 228 deaths occurred, including 29 associated with cardiovascular disease and 62 associated with cancer. Overall, participants with higher sexual activity frequency were at a lower risk of all-cause death in a dose-response manner (P for trend ¼ 0.020) during the follow-up period. In addition, the multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause mortality, CVD mortality, cancer mortality, and other cause mortality among participants who had sex 52 times/year compared with those having sex 0e1 time/year were 0.51 (95% CI, 0.34 to 0.76), 0.79 (95% CI, 0.19 to 3.21), 0.31 (95% CI, 0.11
to 0.84), and 0.52 (95% CI, 0.28 to 0.96), respectively.

Clinical Implications: Sexual activity appears to be a health indicator of all-cause and cancer mortality in US middle-aged adults.

Strengths & Limitations: Clear strengths of the present study include the large representative sample of the noninstitutionalized US population as well as the identification of precise estimates in relation to sexual activity and mortality. However, because of the observational nature of the study design, causality could not be determined.

Conclusions: Sexual activity was found to be associated with a lower risk of mortality from all cause and cancer.