A new study finds that older people’s sex may have cognitive benefits, but that quality and quantity are more important for different age groups.
This research sex research journal The study, published in July 2023, is one of the nationally representative population-based studies investigating how the sex life of older Americans is related to later cognitive function. .
Study co-author Shannon Shen, Ph.D., said that while there are many studies of cognitive decline in older adults, few studies have considered how the sexual aspect of social relationships can benefit cognitive function. It says.
“In older adults, people aged 75 to 90, having very frequent sex, at least once a week, was associated with better cognitive function five years later than those who never had sex. We found that it was,” says Dr. Shen.
“However, for the young people in the study, aged 62 to 74, the elderly, the frequency of sexual activity had no effect. Improving both physical satisfaction was associated with improved cognitive function five years later.”
The benefits of frequent sex in later life differ between men and women
To clarify the relationship between gender and brain health, this study analyzed cognitive assessments and questionnaire responses from 1,683 adults. The study did not track whether transgender people were among the participants, and 1.6 percent of the respondents were gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Sex is defined as “any reciprocal voluntary activity with another person that involves sexual contact, whether or not coitus or orgasm occurs”. Only sex with a partner was analyzed in this study, not masturbation.
The study found that men who had sex at least once a week were less likely to experience cognitive impairment five years later than men who had not had sex in the past year. However, sexual frequency was not associated with women’s cognitive status.
What are the health benefits of sex?
Linda Waite, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago who has also studied the effects of sex on the cognitive health of older adults, says that sex can include stretching, increasing blood flow, and reducing tension as you age. He said it has some physical benefits. Increased hormones and endorphins with orgasm. But the social component is also important.
“When you’re working on a collaborative project, you have to use the social part of your brain,” says Dr. Waite. “I have to say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to poke you,’ or, ‘I’m not feeling very well, can I move?’ or, ‘My hands are cold. Or ‘Let’s do it in secret’ or ‘Let’s do it again’.”
Waits says that patterned social interactions with long-term close partners can also benefit brain health.
“If someone is having a little trouble with the next step, someone else can step in and help them a little bit. We don’t have a problem with it,” says Waite. “‘Oh, remember, I’m going to do that now’?”
Should we have more sex?
Shen said the study found that sex frequency and quality may help improve cognitive function in older adults, but that more sex isn’t necessarily beneficial for everyone. says he cannot say.
“Our findings highlight the importance of different stages of later life in the benefits derived from sexual relationships,” says Shen. “For these young older adults, not only do they have more sex, but the quality of their sexual partners is important for subsequent cognitive functioning. A broader definition of sex may mean that intercourse is not all that is required to obtain these cognitive benefits.”