Sexual activity has been linked to health benefits and longer life. But we don’t really know much about the sex lives of older people and, importantly, the impact that health status has.
Researchers at the University of Chicago now reveal that good health and good sex go together. They looked at two age groups – over 3,000 men and women aged between 25 and 74 and over 3,000 women aged between 57 and 85. The participants provided information on factors like level of sexual activity, sexual interest, and general health.
It turned out that sexual activity was more common in men than women as was a good quality of sex life and sexual interest. This gender gap was most marked in the 75 to 85 age group, where 40% of men but only 17% of women reported regular sexual activity. And 41% of men in this age group were interested in sex compared to 11% of women.
Those in good or excellent health were more likely to report sexual activity than those in poor or fair health. For those in the midlife (25 to 74) age group, good health increased sexual activity two fold and in the older age group, the corresponding factor was over four times. Also, among those reporting sexual activity, good health meant more frequent sex.
The researchers used their findings on sexual activity and interest to work out a sexual life expectancy. They learned that age 30, sexual life expectancy is 34.7 years for men and 30.7 years for women. At age 55, the corresponding figures are 15 years and 10 years. Good or excellent health resulted in a gain of sexual life expectancy of 5-7 years for men and 3-6 years for women. The study reveals how closely health and sexual activity are linked. Those in good health can expect more sexual activity which, in turn, will improve their health! The advent of medication that deals with male sexual dysfunction has helped extend people’s sexual lives. Therefore, sexuality and sexual activity should be regarded as part of a person’s overall health and should be a topic that is included in general health-related quality of life.
Lindau ST et al Sex, health, and years of sexually active life gained due to good health: evidence from two US population based cross sectional surveys of ageing British Medical Journal Online First 10th March 2010 BMJ 2010;340:c810 doi:10:1136/bmj.c810