When adults age, sexual activity generally declines in frequency. However, research shows that regular sexual activity for older adults can help stave off aging-related diseases and promote cognitive function.
In adults between the ages of 50 and 83, the people who had sex more often scored higher on cognitive tests.
The study, published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, was authored by Dr. Hayley Wright of Coventry University’s Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement. It examined 73 older adults between 50 and 83 years of age, and surveyed their sexual activity over the past year, along with their general lifestyle and health habits. Of the 73 adults, 28 of them were men and 45 were women. These subjects took a standardized test, measuring their cognitive skills, such as attention, memory, and visual perception of the spatial relationships of objects.
The tests revealed that those who had sex on a weekly basis scored the highest on the standardized tests, particularly in verbal fluency. Frequency of sexual activity did not positively or negatively affect memory or language abilities. While past research has established a link between sexual activity and cognitive health, it is now shown that the frequency of sexual activity plays a key role as well.
“We can only speculate whether this is driven by social or physical elements — but an area we would like to research further is the biological mechanisms that may influence this,” said Wright. “Every time we do another piece of research we are getting a little bit closer to understanding why this association exists at all, what the underlying mechanisms are, and whether there is a ’cause and effect’ relationship between sexual activity and cognitive function in older people.”
Part of the verbal fluency and visual awareness testing included requiring the participants to name as many words beginning with the letter F as they could, and naming as many animals as possible in one minute. The results were clear, and the effect of weekly sexual activity on visual and verbal fluency was very positive.
Related: Better Sleep May Lead to Better Sex
“People don’t like to think that older people have sex, but we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over, beyond the known effects on sexual health and general well being,” Wright stated.
While these findings encourage more sexual activity among older adults, it is still important to always practice safe sex measures, as sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise among this demographic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports alarming increases in chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea among adults aged 65 and over. In 2010, these older adults reported the lowest rate of condom use, leading to the spread of STDs.
Sex can be mentally beneficial, but the physical ramifications of having unprotected sex still remains. Regardless of age, using protection is of the utmost importance.
Marissa is a health and fitness writer from the Tampa Bay area. In addition to researching the latest trending topics, she enjoys instructing kickboxing classes and posting incessantly to her Instagram account.