Sex is an element of structuring intimate relationships. This is true even as you get older: sex is still important for parents, even though sexual activity tends to decrease with age.
A common misconception is that parents lose interest in sex and are no longer involved in "sexual" behavior. But according to the results of a British survey conducted by University College London, this did not happen.
The survey revealed that 85% of men aged 60 to 69 years reported being sexually active, as did 60% of men aged 70 to 79 years and 32% of men aged 80 years and over. For their part, women are less sexually active when they get older, but some research shows that, like men, many of them also want to continue to have sex when they get older. Research in the United States also reports similar levels of sexual activity in the age groups mentioned above.
The fact that so many people continue to have sex as we get older is good news, because our recent work shows that parents who have less sex are more likely to have mental and physical health problems.
Our work led us to study the sexual lives of 2,577 men and 3,195 women aged 50 and over. Specifically, we asked them if they had experienced a decrease in sexual desire, frequency of activity, or the ability to get an erection (for men) or to feel sexual relations during the past year. excited (woman).
We found that men who reported a decrease in their sexual desire were more likely to develop cancer or other chronic conditions that restricted their daily activities. Men and women who report a decrease in the frequency of their sexual relations are also more likely to perceive their health as less satisfying. And men with erectile dysfunction also have more cancer and coronary heart disease.
It is important to note, however, that changes in sexual desire or function may be a consequence of these conditions, at a stage where they have not been diagnosed.
Our research also found that older adults are more aware of being sexually active.
Conversely, those who saw a decrease in their sexual activity reported feeling worse on their skin than those whose sexual desire, activity, and function were maintained. We also found that the cognitive performance of men who remained sexually active in old age was better than men who were no longer sexually active.
It's no secret that sex can be a source of well-being. This is explained by the fact that during sex, the body produces endorphins, which produce feelings of pleasure or elevation. The consequences go beyond improving mood, because it is known that high levels of endorphins are associated with greater activation of the immune system, which can lead to a reduction in the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Research also shows that people who have sex with their partners are more likely to share stronger relationships. But feeling closer to her partner has been linked to better mental health.
It's also important to remember that sex is a sport – often with moderate intensity. It is possible to burn up to four calories per minute in this way. But all physical activity has health benefits – and sex is no exception. Therefore, regular sexual activity can produce benefits in terms of physical and mental health.
Of course, sex is not the only factor that improves health and well-being when you reach old age. But our work shows that older people are not free of sexual desire, and it might be interesting to highlight the value of maintaining an active sex life as you get older. This can improve mental (and possibly physical) health.
Unfortunately, incentives to explore new sexual activity or to test new positions or practices rarely target older people … Also, often when it comes to tackling this problem, doctors prefer ostrich politics, avoiding alluding to the problem.
Such discussions can help to challenge the norms and expectations of sexual activity. This, as our research shows, can help people lead more satisfying and healthier lives – and live longer.