- For those aged 75-90 sex didn’t have to be all that good – just frequent
Having good sex in later life may help keep the brain healthy, a study suggests.
Researchers found that men and women aged between 62 and 74 who described their sex life as ‘very pleasurable and satisfying’ had better cognitive health scores five years later than those who had rated their bedroom behaviour less enthusiastically.
The results could be due to the stress-relieving benefits of good sex, the researchers said, as well as the release of the pleasure hormone, dopamine.
‘Stress prevents the new formation of neurons [neurogenesis] in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory,’ they wrote in their research paper.
‘Older adults who enjoy satisfying sexual activities may experience decreased stress that may in turn protect neurogenesis.’
Researchers found that men and women aged between 62 and 74 who described their sex life as ‘very pleasurable and satisfying’ had better cognitive health
The researchers, from Hope College, Michigan, U.S. added: ‘Sexual satisfaction is associated with orgasm, and an orgasm releases a rush of dopamine.
‘Thus, people with more sexually satisfying relationships may experience higher levels of dopamine, which has been linked to improved memory in older adults.’
The study involved 1,683 people aged 62 and older, and cognitive scores were a combined assessment of six key areas, including working memory, attention, and visuospatial skills.
And there was even better news for those aged 75-90, the study found. Their sex didn’t even have to be all that good – it just had to be frequent.
The team found that those in this age group who had any sexual activity – not necessarily intercourse, or with orgasm – once a week scored higher on the cognitive tests compared to those who had not had sex in the past year.
The size of the effect was comparable to the advantage conveyed by a longer education – i.e. having been to university compared to not finishing high school – ‘another factor known to positively impact cognitive function in this age group’, they said.
‘That sexual frequency matters in older-old ages may be because having any sex in these later years, regardless of sexual quality, is beneficial for health outcomes,’ they wrote in their paper, published in the Journal of Sex Research.
The size of the effect of good sex later in life was comparable to the advantage conveyed by a longer education – i.e. having been to university compared to not finishing high schoo
‘Sexual activity can foster cognitive health because it is a form of physical activity.
‘This may be especially true at older-old ages as physical inactivity increases with age and older-old adults have high rates of sedentary behaviour.
‘Thus, any circulatory benefits from having sex may be important at very old age.’
The researchers used data taken from a long-term population study in the US called the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project and the results were analysed in a way that showed it was not simply that people with better cognitive health had more/better sex in the first place.