Having less sex linked to the previous menopause

Women who engage in sexual activity weekly or monthly have a lower risk of entering menopause early than those who report having some form of sex less than a month, according to a new UCL study.

The researchers observed that women, who reported being engaged in sexual activities weekly, were 28% less likely to have had menopause at a given age than women who engaged in sexual activity less than a month. . Sexual activity includes sexual intercourse, oral sex, sexual contact, stroking or self-stimulation.

The research, published in Royal Society Open Science, is based on data from the U.S. study on women’s health across the nation (SWAN). It is the largest, most varied and most representative longitudinal cohort study available for research into aspects of the transition of menopause.

The first author of the study, PhD student Megan Arnot (UCL Anthropology), said: “The results of our study suggest that if a woman is not having sex and there is no possibility of pregnancy, the body” chooses “not to investing in ovulation, as it would be useless There could be a biological energy compromise between investing energy in ovulation and investing elsewhere, such as keeping active by taking care of grandchildren.

“The idea that women cease fertility to invest more time in their family is known as the grandmother’s hypothesis, which predicts that menopause originally evolved in men to reduce reproductive conflicts between different generations of females and allow women to increase their inclusive fitness by investing in grandchildren. ”

During ovulation, the woman’s immune function is impaired, making the body more susceptible to disease. Given that pregnancy is unlikely due to lack of sexual activity, it would not be helpful to allocate energy to an expensive process, especially if there is an opportunity to invest resources in existing relatives.

The research is based on data collected from 2,936 women, recruited as a base cohort for the SWAN study in 1996/1997.

The average age at the first interview was 45. Non-Hispanic Caucasian women were the most represented in the sample (48%) and most of the women were educated at a higher level than high school. On average they had two children, were mostly married or in a relationship (78%) and lived with their partner (68%).

Women were asked to answer several questions, including whether they had had sex with their partner in the past six months, the frequency of sex, including whether they had had sex, oral sex, sexual contacts or caresses in the past six months. and if they have engaged in self-stimulation in the past six months. The most frequent pattern of sexual activity was weekly (64%).

None of the women had yet entered menopause, but 46% were in early peri-menopause (starting to experience symptoms of menopause, such as changes in the menstrual cycle and hot flashes) and 54% were in pre-menopause (with regular cycles and without peri-menopause or menopause symptoms).

The interviews were conducted over a ten-year follow-up period, during which 1,324 (45%) of the 2,936 women had a natural menopause at an average age of 52 years.

By modeling the relationship between sexual frequency and the age of natural menopause, women of any age who had sex weekly had a risk ratio of 0.72, while women of any age who had sex monthly had a relationship of risk of 0.81.

This provided a chance that women of any age who had sex on a weekly basis were 28% less likely to experience menopause than those who had sex less than a month. Likewise, those who had monthly sexual intercourse were 19% less likely to suffer from menopause at any given age than those who had sex less than a month.

The researchers checked characteristics such as estrogen level, education, body mass index, race, smoking habits, age at the first occurrence of menstruation, age at the first interview and general health.

The study also investigated whether cohabitation with a male partner influenced menopause as a proxy for verifying whether exposure to male pheromones delayed menopause. The researchers found no correlation, regardless of whether the male was present in the home or not.
The latest author, Professor Ruth Mace (UCL Anthropology), added: “Menopause is obviously an inevitability for women, and there is no behavioral intervention that prevents the cessation of reproduction. However, these results are an initial indication that the timing of menopause may be adaptive in response to the likelihood of becoming pregnant. “


The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and by the Research Council in Biotechnology and Life Sciences.

Notes to editors

For further information or to speak to the researchers involved, please contact:

Natasha Downes, UCL Media Relations. T: +44 (0) 20 3108 3844 / +44 (0) 7990 675 947, E: [email protected]

Arnot, M., Mace, R. “Sexual frequency is associated with the age of natural menopause, the results of the study on women’s health across the nation” will be published in Royal Society Open Science Wednesday 15 January 2019, 00.01 UK time and is subject to a strict embargo so far.

The DOI for this document will be http: // dx.DOI.org /10.1098 /RSO.191020

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