Good Health Boosts Sexual Life Expectancy

Study Shows Better Health Linked to More Satisfying Sex Life in Older Years

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

March 9, 2010 -- Good health may not only help you live longer, but it could also help you enjoy a longer, more satisfying sex life.

A new study shows people who are in good health are nearly twice as likely to be interested in sex in middle and older age and also more likely to report having a busy and satisfying sex life.

Researchers say sexual activity has long been associated with health benefits and longevity, but this is the first study to look at how general health affects the quality of sex as people age and calculate what they call a person's "sexually active life expectancy."

Using information gathered from more than 6,000 men and women in midlife and later life, researchers estimate that at age 55, the average sexually active life expectancy is 15 years for men and 10.6 years for women.

"Although the period is longer for men, they lose more years of sexually active life as a result of poor health than women," write researcher Stacy Tessler Lindau, associate professor at the University of Chicago, and colleagues in the journal BMJ.

But the gender disparities don't stop there.

"Overall, the study found that men have a longer sexually active life expectancy and that most sexually active men report a good quality sex life. In contrast, only about half of sexually active women reported a good quality sex life," write the researchers. "This disparity, and its implication for health, requires further exploration."

Other findings of the study include:

  • At the age of 30, men have a sexually active life expectancy of nearly 35 years; women, almost 31 years. At 55, this average sexual life expectancy changes to almost 15 remaining years for men and 10 years for women.
  • By age 75, 17% of women and 39% of men were sexually active. But for those with a partner, these gender differences were much smaller.
  • About two-thirds of sexually active middle-aged men and women reported having a good-quality sex life. But only five out of 10 older women reported a good-quality sex life, compared with seven out of 10 older men.
  • Older men were three times as likely to be interested in sex as older women (62% vs. 21%).
  • People in very good health were 1.5 to 1.8 times more likely to report an interest in sex than those in poorer health.
  • Among those who were sexually active, good health was also associated with more frequent sex (once or more weekly) in men and with a good-quality sex life in men and women.

In an editorial that accompanies the study, Patricia Goodson, a professor at Texas University, says the news that adults in the U.S. can enjoy many years of sexual activity beyond age 55 is promising.

"Despite the spotlight this study shines on the sexual health of older adults in the US, less good news lies dormant in the shadows," writes Goodson. "Take the gender gap in sexually active life expectancy, for instance, which favours men: for men at age 55, sexually active life expectancy was eight to nine years less than demographic life expectancy, whereas for women this difference was 17 to 18 years."



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SOURCES: Lindau, S. BMJ, published online March 10, 2010.

News release, BMJ.

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