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Stressed at Work? Have More Sex (at Home)

The psychological benefits of sex for dealing with work stress.

Key points

  • Our psychological health and resiliency affects our work, and our ability to manage work-related stress.
  • Both partnered sex and masturbation are effective at reducing stress and improve life and job satisfaction.
  • Pleasure from partnered sex has a stronger positive impact for women compared to men.
  • Guilt and shame over using sex to cope may hinder recovery from work-related stress.
Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Source: Image by Pexels from Pixabay

The idea that sex improves physical and psychological health is not new. The health benefits of sex are well-documented. Beyond simple health benefits, past research has suggested that positive sexual health also improves workplace productivity. Now, new research suggests that sex can be an effective and healthy way to not only increase your office productivity, but also to help you recover from the psychological tolls of a long day’s work.1

Goodman, Snoeyink, and Martinez, researchers at the University of Memphis and University of Portland, recruited 1,280 online participants to complete assessments of sexual pleasure, job satisfaction, work engagement, and life satisfaction. Forty-five percent of the sample were male, with a broad mix of ethnicities and races. In a relatively unique approach, the researchers assessed both partnered sex and masturbation—70 percent of women and 83 percent of men reported masturbating in the past month. This initial study focused on heterosexual participants.

The results found that higher levels of reported sexual pleasure predicted that participants were more likely to report a “psychological state of recovery” from work-related stress. This self-perceived recovery state mediated the relationships between sexual pleasure, job and life satisfaction, and work engagement. So, viewing sex as a part of one’s process of managing negative emotions sets up a healthy process of improved psychological and emotional health.

What Kinds of Sex Improve Psychological Resiliency?

These results were robust, for both partnered sex and for masturbation. In males and females, sexual pleasure from either partnered sex or masturbation improved psychological health.

In women, but not men, sexual pleasure associated with partnered romantic sex predicted greater feelings of recovery and more positive outcomes, compared to masturbation.

For those individuals who are not in partnered relationships, the authors note, they may still benefit from masturbation in dealing with work-related stress.

The sex difference in these effects may be related to the “orgasm gap” that exists between men and women. Both men and women generally report orgasms from masturbation, but men, compared to women, are more likely to report orgasms from partnered sex. In men, because orgasms and pleasure are essentially equivalent between partnered sex and masturbation, there wasn’t a differential effect. But, in women, orgasms and pleasure during partnered sex may predict a more attentive, competent partner focused on the female’s pleasure. This dynamic—a loving, caring partner in bed, may contribute to a stronger positive impact of such partnered sex.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay
Source: Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

Goodman, Snoeyink, and Martinez suggest that these data may encourage employers to support their employees in having healthy personal lives, including sexual intimacy. Further, employers may recognize that they are improving their employees’ lives and work health by reducing after-hours interruptions (emails and phone calls), allowing their employees to better recover from their day of work. Because these results were universal for both men and women, as well as for partnered sex and masturbation, the taboos to discussing female sexual pleasure and masturbation may actually hinder work-related psychological health.

Using Sex to Cope

Many people I see who struggle with their sexuality feel shame for using sex, solo or partnered, to cope with their feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression. In my experience, this emerges from social and moral commandments that sex shouldn’t be “used.” If you use sex for some other reason, for coping, for attention, for companionship, then the sex is somehow sullied, cheapened, and demeaned. So the people I treat are left feeling ashamed and guilty, and even more stressed and depressed. This study is an excellent means of sharing the message with these people that not only is sex or masturbation a great way to manage negative feelings, they’re perfectly normal and healthy for doing so.


Goodman RE, Snoeyink MJ, Martinez LR. Conceptualizing Sexual Pleasure at Home as a Work-Related Stress Recovery Activity. J Sex Res. 2024 Feb;61(2):184-195. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2022.2150138. Epub 2022 Dec 15. PMID: 36519736.

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