Sexually-active older adults tend to have a greater sense of well-being, reports a Sexual Medicine study.
Frequent kissing, petting, or fondling were associated with a greater enjoyment of life for both sexually active men and women, the researchers said.
Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), they identified 6,879 British adults (3,045 men and 3,834 women) between the ages of 50 and 89 who had completed two assessments: the Sexual Relationships and Activities Questionnaire (SRA-Q) and the pleasure subscale of the Control, Autonomy, Self-realization, and Pleasure (CASP-19) questionnaire.
Seventy-four percent of the men and 60% of the women were married or cohabitating with a partner at the time of the study. The vast majority were white. About a third had a limiting, long-standing illness.
Overall, CASP-19 scores were higher for sexually active participants, indicating more enjoyment with life. (Participants were considered sexually active if they had engaged in sexual activity during the previous year.)
Sexually active men tended to have greater enjoyment of life if they had vaginal, anal, or oral sex at least twice a month. These activities were not associated with greater life enjoyment in sexually active women, however. Masturbation was not associated with enjoyment of life for any participants.
Men who had concerns about their sex life were more likely to have lower scores on the enjoyment of life assessment, but associations were “less consistent” in women, the authors said.
Both men and women seemed to enjoy life more when they felt emotionally close to their partner during sex. Sexual satisfaction was associated with greater enjoyment for men, but not for women.
The authors proposed several reasons for the link between sexual activity and enjoyment of life. Sex is a physical activity associated with good health, they explained, and the release of endorphins during intercourse “generates a happy or blissful feeling after sex.” Sexually active individuals also share a bond with a partner, which is thought to improve one’s well-being.
Further research might consider how and why sexuality and life enjoyment differ between men and women, they added.
“Our present findings and those of others suggest that it may be beneficial for physicians to routinely query geriatric patients about their sexual activity and to offer help for sexual difficulties,” the authors wrote.
Smith, Lee, PhD, et al.
“Sexual Activity is Associated with Greater Enjoyment of Life in Older Adults”
(Full-text. Published online: December 13, 2018)
University College London
“Study shows benefits of sex for older adults”
(December 13, 2018)