Having sex less frequently could lead to an earlier menopause, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that women who reported having sexual activity weekly were 28% less likely to have experienced menopause than those who had sex less than once a month.
Similarly, those who had sex monthly were 19% less likely to have attained menopause — defined as 12 months without a period — than those who had sex less than once a month.
While the study didn’t look at the reason for the link, the authors said that the physical cues of sex may signal to the body that there is a possibility of getting pregnant. But for women who aren’t having sex frequently in midlife, an earlier menopause may make more biological sense.
“If you’re not going to reproduce, there’s no point ovulating — you’re better off using that energy elsewhere,” said Megan Arnot, the lead author of the study and a PhD candidate in evolutionary anthropology at University College London.
During ovulation, a woman is more susceptible to disease because the immune system is impaired, Arnot said. If pregnancy was unlikely due to a lack of sexual activity, that means it wouldn’t be beneficial for the body to allocate energy to the ovulation process.
Instead, she said, the findings support the “Grandmother Hypothesis,” a theory that suggests the menopause originally evolved in humans to reduce “reproductive conflict” between different generations of women and to ensure their grandchildren survived and thrived.
“There may be a biological energetic trade-off between investing energy into ovulation and investing elsewhere — such as keeping active by looking after grandchildren,” Arnot said.
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