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Male Gender and Good Health Equals More Years of Sexual Activity

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

When it comes to life expectancy, women survive longer - but survey results show that men have more years of sexual interest and activity compared to women. Men over age 55 can expect 15 more years of a healthy sex life, but for women, there are about 11 years left of sexual participation. Good health also equals more sex.

For a 30 year old man, the survey results suggest a 34.7 year sexually active life expectancy. For a 30 year old woman, sexually active life expectancy is 30.7 years. Good health boosts those figure an additional 5 to 7 years for men, and 3 to 6 years for women.

The difference between years of sexual activity for men, compared to women, come from two surveys that were the focus of researchers Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago, and co-author Natalia Gavrilova. The National Survey of Midlife Development that included 3000 adults age 24 to 75 was performed in 1996. The second survey from the National Social Life Health and Aging Project, included 3000 adults aged 57 to 85; completed in 2006.

According to Dr. Lindau, "Interest in sex, participation in sex and even the quality of sexual activity were higher for men than women, and this gender gap widened with age. “ Only eleven percent of women age 75-85 said they thought about sex or were interested. Forty percent of women had a partner, compared to 72 percent of men the same age. Half of the women who were sexually active said their sex lives were “good”.

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Among adults without partners, eleven percent of women, compared to 57 percent of men, said they were interested in sex in the 75 to 85 age group. Dr. Lindau says the study "affirms a positive association between later-life health, sexual partnership and sexual activity.”

The researchers also introduce a new health measurement tool as a result of their efforts, called "sexually active life expectancy” or SALE that measured a man’s sexual life expectancy as 10 years lower than total years of life, but for women SALE was 20 years lower than life expectancy.

The researchers say the findings could help in directing public health policies and medical resources toward "the arena of sexual health". The authors also remind us that sexual health issues among ageing homosexual, bisexual or intersexed people still leaves questions that “stand as dim reminders of the limitations inherent in applying science to the study of complex human realities, and the cultural values shaping the topics we choose to study."

The survey analysis concluded, “Sexual activity, quality of sexual life, and interest in sex were positively associated with health in middle age and later life. Sexually active life expectancy was longer for men, but men lost more years of sexually active life as a result of poor health than women.”

The current finding sheds some light on sexual activity after age 55, and the role of good health. Men have a longer sexual life expectancy, but women live longer - staying healthy adds years to both, and cultural values limit whose sex lives we study.