How does masturbation correlate with mental health?
by | May 18, 2021
It’s difficult to separate the mental health effects of masturbation from the mental health effects of pornography because pornography use is strongly correlated with masturbation – 70% of the time they occur in the same week. When controlling for pornography use (which has many of its own effects on mental health), masturbation alone is still negatively linked to relational happiness.
In a study of 2,810 partnered adults, masturbation was negatively correlated with sexual satisfaction, life satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and mental health satisfaction scores.
In a study of 2,450 adults, masturbating >15x in the past month and viewing pornography >31x in the past year were indicators of hypersexuality, which was associated with less satisfaction with psychological health and life in general. Those people also reported increased frequency of smoking tobacco, heavy drinking, using illegal drugs, and gambling. Adults who masturbated 0 or 1-2x/month had the highest ratings of psychological health and satisfaction with life in general.
A major perceived benefit of abstinence from masturbation (and, often, pornography) described in research is a sense of regained control over subjects’ pornography use and/or their lives in general. The most common positive effects included improved mood, energy, mental clarity, focus, confidence, motivation, and productivity. Some reported that abstinence resulted in feeling less emotionally numb and the ability to feel their emotions more intensely. Increased sociability was reported by some, while others described improved relationship quality and sense of connection with others.
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- Perry SL. Is the Link Between Pornography Use and Relational Happiness Really More About Masturbation? Results From Two National Surveys. J Sex Res. 2020;57(1):64-76.
- Brody S, Costa RM. Satisfaction (sexual, life, relationship, and mental health) is associated directly with penile-vaginal intercourse, but inversely with other sexual behavior frequencies. J Sex Med. 2009;6(7):1947-1954.
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- Fernandez DP, Kuss DJ, Griffiths MD. The Pornography “Rebooting” Experience: A Qualitative Analysis of Abstinence Journals on an Online Pornography Abstinence Forum. Arch Sex Behav. 2021;50(2):711-728.
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