The regular habit of masturbating is healthy for both sexes. However, there is quite a lot of buzz about the possibility of men increasing their testosterone levels by abstaining from masturbation. Does masturbation have a real effect on testosterone levels?
The short answer is no. The longer, more complicated answer is, there could be short term hormonal effects from abstaining.
This ejaculation abstinence movement is a modern idea that seems to be gaining traction in some corners of the internet. There are online groups that advocate for total abstinence from sex, masturbation, and porn in the effort to increase testosterone levels. But, is this seated in any kind of scientific fact? The scientific studies that have researched this topic are a mixed bag.
Study one: In a 1992 study researchers tested salivary testosterone concentrations before sex, after sex, and on days where people abstained from sex. This study reported that testosterone was highest in both men and women after sex. Testosterone decreased when there was no sex.
Study two: However, a more recent 2003 study threw their hat into the ring with some intriguing discoveries. In this small study, they measured the testosterone levels in abstaining men. The researchers found little to no change in hormonal changes between the 2nd to 5th day of abstinence. Day 7 however offered some surprising results. On the 7th day of abstinence from ejaculation, testosterone levels soared past the baseline by 145.7% percent.
This study was the first to observe this phenomenon. More research is needed to fully understand this discovery. From this study, we see that ejaculation abstinence might temporarily increase testosterone levels. However, more research is required to fully understand this phenomenon. The benefits of the short term rise in testosterone are not clear. The effect on long term hormonal patterns are also unclear.
Study three: Lastly, in a small 2000 study involving male athlete participants, researchers found that sexual activity had “no detrimental influence” on athletic performance. However, they also found that having some form of intercourse two hours before an athletic event could affect an athlete's recovery capacity.
Research conclusion: Interestingly, these studies do show some correlation between ejaculation and testosterone however, the effects seem to be short-lived. Also, these studies are small-scale and further research would need to be done before drawing any conclusions.
While the aforementioned studies offer some food for thought, the question on our mind is - why? Why the interest in higher levels of testosterone? Is this a possible placebo effect? Dr. Nan Wise, a sex therapist, and psychotherapist thinks it might be. Wise says “Here's a place [ejaculation abstinence] where the power of belief is going to determine what people experience, and their experience is going to confirm their belief.”
Physically, some claim abstaining offers them:
Mentally, some claim abstaining offers them:
Historically, Taoist and Buddhist traditions encourage abstaining from sex, along with abstaining from other desire-based influences. In Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of medicine, brahmacharya (celibacy) is practiced on the path to enlightenment. Spiritually, it is believed by some that abstaining from sex can offer:
However, any physical, mental, or spiritual changes with abstinence are not validated with studies and are largely unsubstantiated.
Physicians and psychologists alike seem to unanimously agree on this debate. Experts stating that abstaining has little to no concrete benefits, while sexual activity has much in the way of documented benefits. Dr. Dan Wise says "In general, there's a lot of evidence that engaging in regular sexual behavior is physically and emotionally helpful for both men and women."
In both men and women, regular sexual activity can:
In men, sexual activity, including masturbation, can:
In women, sexual activity can:
If you have questions about the potential risks or benefits of ejaculation abstinence, we recommend you speak to your doctor or urologist.