World’s largest sex study under way in Denmark

November 17, 2017 - 09:01

Up to 200,000 people to help scientists reveal how sex impacts our health.

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Are we healthier if we have more sex? Scientists are trying to find out. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Almost 200,000 randomly selected people in Denmark will have the opportunity to take part in the world’s largest population study into sexual habits.

The study, called Project SEXUS, will cast light on how sex and intimacy affects our health, and the influence our health has on our sex life.

“We’re launching this massive machinery with a great deal of enthusiasm but also a great deal of humility. We’re asking the public to answer some very personal questions, which they may not normally speak to other people about,” says project leader Morten Frisch, a doctor in the Department for Epidemiology Research at Statens Serum Institute, Denmark, and an adjunct professor of sexual health epidemiology at Aalborg University.

“We’re naturally excited because such an investigation has never been made in such detail before,” he says.

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Intimacy just as important as sex

In the confidential survey, participants will answer questions on which gender they are attracted to, their sexual experiences, and how much sex they have.

But the study is concerned with more than just the act of sex itself.

A large part of the questions revolve around contact with other people, how much participants smoke and drink, their background, health, any diseases they might suffer from, and their perception of their own bodies.

The end goal is to identify the positive and negative influences on our sex lives, and how sex and intimacy influence our health.

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What are the positive sides of sex?

While it’s too early to speculate on the findings, the scientists are hopeful that the project might help answer questions such as:

  • Are we healthier if we have more sex?
  • Are relationships better when both parties have the same desire for sex?
  • Do we recover faster from illness if we have active sex lives or a loving partner to confide in?

“We know a lot about how illness or an unhealthy lifestyle negatively influences our sex lives. But I’m most interested in looking more closely at the possible positive effects of a good sex life,” says Professor Christian Graugaard, a lead-scientist on Project SEXUS from the Sexology Research Centre at Aalborg University.

“For example, other scientists have suggested that men have a lower risk of prostate cancer when they ejaculate more frequently, but is there any truth to this? The study will be able to cast new light on issues such as this,” he says.

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Study will confirm and refute common myths

The study will be repeated in a few years time to track developments and connections that would otherwise be impossible to monitor during a single study that captures a snapshot of people’s lives.

For example, previous studies have found that overweight people in general have less sex. But do they have less sex after putting on weight, or did they put on weight due to stress in a relationship, prompting them to eat more and have less sex? And does this distinction have health implications?

Similarly, the study will address a number of common misconceptions about sex, says Frisch.

“Some will probably turn out to be pure speculation, while others will warrant further investigation. There are many unknown connections due to the fact that nobody has studied them systematically,” he says.

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Read more in the Danish version of this article on Videnskab.dk
 

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Translated by
Catherine Jex

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