However, masturbation may have short-term effects on the levels of this hormone. It also affects other factors, such as sex drive. Masturbation does not typically pose a threat to any other aspects of a person’s physical health.
In this article, we discuss the possible short-term and long-term effects of masturbation on testosterone levels. We also consider the results of abstinence, the influence of testosterone on sex drive, and signs of high and low testosterone.
Short- and long-term effects
Researchers are interested in both the short-term and long-term effects of masturbation on testosterone levels. However, the research to date is limited and somewhat conflicting.
One reason for this is that it is difficult for scientists in a laboratory to recreate an environment in which people would typically masturbate.
One study used a United States sex club to evaluate changes in testosterone levels in response to sexual stimuli in a real-world setting.
The researchers compared the salivary testosterone levels in men who participated in sexual activity with those in men who only observed. While testosterone levels increased in all the men who visited the sex club, the increase was significantly higher in those who participated.
An earlier study from 1992 assessed the effects of sexual activity on testosterone levels in both men and women. The researchers measured testosterone levels before and after intercourse and also on days when there was no sex.
In both men and women, testosterone levels were highest after intercourse. Levels were lower before sex and on days with no intercourse. These results suggest that sexual activity influences testosterone rather than testosterone influencing sexual activity.
In a 2007 study in rats, researchers found that the number of estrogen receptors was higher 24 hours after ejaculation or mating to sexual satiety. Estrogen receptors help the body use estrogen.
A different rat study from the same year found that the number of androgen receptors, which help the body use testosterone, was lower 24 hours after ejaculation or sexual satiety.
Research is still lacking regarding the long-term effects of masturbation on testosterone levels.
Effects of abstinence on testosterone
Abstaining from sexual activity may raise testosterone levels.
There is some research on the effect of abstinence on testosterone levels. Overall, these studies suggest that abstinence from masturbation or sexual activity can raise testosterone levels.
A study from 2003 measured testosterone levels in men after various lengths of abstinence from ejaculation. There was minimal movement in testosterone levels between 2 and 5 days of abstinence.
However, testosterone levels peaked after 7 days of abstinence.
Another study from 2003 measured hormone levels, including testosterone, during a masturbation-induced orgasm both before and after 3 weeks of abstinence from masturbation. Data revealed that testosterone levels were higher after the 3-week abstinence period.
Another study evaluated changes in testosterone levels in men with erectile dysfunction after they received nonhormonal treatment. At baseline, these participants had lower testosterone levels than those in the control group. However, the researchers found that testosterone levels increased in the men who resumed regular sexual activity after their treatment. Conversely, testosterone levels did not change in the men for whom treatment was ineffective.
There is also a popular theory that abstinence from sexual activity before participation in sports provides some benefit due to the influence of frustration. However, there is a lack of recent scientific research to support this idea.
Masturbation and sex drive
Testosterone has an influence on sex drive in both men and women. Experts believe it to have a more significant effect on men’s sex drive due to their naturally higher levels of testosterone. Of course, other factors play into this as well.
A study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior sought to find a link between saliva testosterone levels and sexual desire, whether alone or with a partner. For women, testosterone had a definite connection to masturbatory desire but a negative link to sexual desire with a partner.
Men showed a higher sexual desire than women. However, the researchers suggested that this was due to their higher frequency of masturbation rather than their testosterone levels.
The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation evaluated the influence of hormones on the sexual function of more than 3,000 women transitioning to menopause. The researchers measured the levels of several different hormones, including testosterone, estradiol, and follicle-stimulating hormone.
Testosterone had a positive association with sexual desire and masturbation. However, follicle-stimulating hormone, which reaches elevated levels during menopause, reduced sexual function in women.
Signs of low or high testosterone
Low testosterone levels can cause reduced endurance and low muscle mass.
Low testosterone levels can cause many different signs and symptoms in men, including:
- low muscle mass
- decreased strength or endurance
- reduced facial or body hair
- mood disturbances
- erectile dysfunction
- memory loss or difficulty concentrating
- difficulty sleeping
Doctors can treat men with low testosterone levels using extra testosterone that they deliver via a patch, gel, or injection into a muscle.
While testosterone replacement may help with some of the symptoms of low testosterone, research has not shown that it consistently improves cardiovascular risk, mood, and sexual function. It does appear to improve muscle strength, though.
It is uncommon for an adult male to have a disorder that causes high testosterone levels.
In young children, high levels of testosterone can lead to early puberty and possibly infertility.
Women with high testosterone levels may have a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome, particularly if they have these symptoms:
Masturbation does not seem to have any harmful effects on a person’s testosterone levels or general health.
Research on the relationship between masturbation and testosterone is somewhat limited, especially regarding the long-term effects. However, masturbation or other sexual activity may lead to a short-term increase in testosterone.
It would also appear that short-term abstinence from sexual activity can increase testosterone levels.
People can treat low testosterone with replacement therapy. If a person has concerns about their testosterone levels, they should speak with their doctor.