Fact Sheet: What effect does masturbation have on mental health?

When it comes to the science of porn and masturbation and the effect on our mental health, it can be hard to find conclusive information on the internet.

While we receive thousands of reports from those who are struggling with porn addiction, and have seen first hand the negative impact it has on our clients health and well being, the internet is full of claims that its “good for you”.

One reason why it might be so difficult to find studies that are anti-porn and masturbation is because the porn industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Unfortunately, the porn industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on popularizing the idea that “masturbation is good for you” when scientifically that may not be the case.

There are plenty of studies out there however that show statistically the negative effects of porn and masturbation on mental health. The below findings explain the overall effect of masturbation on mental health, happiness, and satisfaction:

First off, 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.1 When controlling for pornography use, masturbation alone is still negatively linked to relational happiness.2 

In a study of 2,810 partnered adults, masturbation was negatively correlated with sexual satisfaction, life satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and mental health satisfaction scores.3 

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.4 

1. Carvalheira A, Træen B, Stulhofer A. Masturbation and Pornography Use Among Coupled Heterosexual Men With Decreased Sexual Desire: How Many Roles of Masturbation?. J Sex Marital Ther. 2015;41(6):626-635. 

2. 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. 

3. 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. 

4. Långström N, Hanson RK. High rates of sexual behavior in the general population: correlates & predictors. Arch Sex Behav. 2006;35(1):37-52. 


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