Sexual Healing? Not So Fast: The Cost of Serial Relationships and Multiple Partners

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By Lance Curtis

Marvin Gaye wrote a song called Sexual Healing in 1982.

Marvin Gaye

It became a cultural anthem that lauded the benefits of sexual activity. It was presented as the “cure for what ails you.”

However, research demonstrates that the opposite is true. When the relationship is not monogamous, or is a part of a lifestyle of serial intimate relationships, the risk for chronic and life-threatening illness increases, as well as the risk of substance abuse. In short, the more sexual partners, the greater the likelihood of health issues.

The reality is that a committed, married relationship increases overall health, and life expectancy for both men and women. This is according to a study published by SSM Popular Health online journal, and presented in the National Institute of Health Online Magazine. 


How can “sexual healing” be a bad thing?

The answer is found in numerous research studies that indicate that the greater the number of sexual partners, the greater the chance of illnesses.

According to a research study conducted by Igor Grabovac and reported in the Journal on Sex and Reproductive Health 2022, the number of sexual partners is associated with an increased chance of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and reported cancers. Specifically, men who reported 10 or more sexual partners in their life were nearly 70% more likely to have developed cancer when compared to those reporting 0 or 1 sexual partner.

Women who reported 10 or more lifetime experiences were 91% more likely to have developed cancer when compared with those reporting 0 to 1 sexual partner.


Many STIs are also linked with cancers. Human papillomavirus (HPV) increases the risk of cancers of the cervix, mouth, penis, and anus. HIV infections increase the risk of Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphoma. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections are linked to liver cancer. Gonorrhea increases the risk of prostate cancer (particularly among African American men) as published in the Harvard Health Magazine. The data suggests that it would be wise to consider the risks when making decisions about engaging in sexual relationships with multiple partners if you want a long life.

“But what about a happy life?”

How does the number of partners impact emotional health? There are clear indications that sexual promiscuity is highly correlated with chemical dependence. A study conducted by Sandhya Ramrakha at the Dunedin School of Medicine discovered a linear correlation between the number of sexual partners and substance abuse.

A study by Tyree Oredein from Rutgers School of Public Health showed that among young females with multiple partners, depression rates increased significantly. The correlation between substance abuse and the number of partners leads to many questions:

  • Does promiscuity lead to feelings that need to be self-medicated?
  • Are the feelings elicited  overwhelming over time?
  • Does the lifestyle of multiple partners influence addiction or is the opposite true?


Even with the unanswered questions, a few things are clear:

  • Increasing the number of sexual partners leads to an increased risk of STIs.
  • Having 10 or more sexual partners in a lifetime increases the risk of cancer.
  • Sexual promiscuity increases the risk of substance abuse.

The logical conclusion is that it would indeed be wise to consider the dangers of seeking “sexual healing” from multiple partners over the course of a lifetime.