Senior Intimacy Pros & Cons

We all want to believe that our sex life will continue effortlessly as we age and it will be enjoyable, fun and filled with pure pleasure.  But a new study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior brings up a question of whether sex during our senior years is actually good for our health or not.

The answer may depend on whether you are male or female from what the results show.  Women, you’re good – go ahead.  Frequent sex is in your favor.  If you’re an older man, be careful – having too much fun in bed could backfire.

What the researchers from the study wanted to find out if there are any cardiovascular risks or benefits associated with sexual activity during older age.  The study analyzed survey data from 2,204 participants, aged 57-86, which were taken from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project.  The first set of data was collected from 2005-06 while a second set of data was collected 5 years later.

Cardiovascular health of each participant was assessed by charting rapid heart rate, hypertension and the amount of circulating C-reactive protein.   If levels of C-reactive protein are elevated, this is a sign of inflammation and is known to be correlated with heart disease.

Generally, having more sex is seen as bringing about positive health benefits for both genders, but the results from this study suggest otherwise.  It was found that older men who had sex at least once a week were more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event over the next 5 years at a rate that was almost two times greater than older men who are sexually inactive.  It was also found that the men who had enjoyable, satisfying sex with their partner had a higher risk of a cardiovascular event than the men who did not have this same experience.

Older women were not found to be effected in this same manner as men. In fact, women of this age group who had satisfying, pleasurable sex had experienced a lower risk of hypertension leading to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in later life.  So apparently, an enjoyable active sex life for older women is good news for them.

Researchers were not able to say exactly why older men who had more frequent sex were at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.  They theorized that older men may have to put more effort and exertion into achieving an orgasm – either for emotional or medical reasons – then they did when they were younger. This extra exertion may put more stress on their cardiovascular system that may already be having medical issues.  Another speculation is that an older man’s testosterone levels and medications taken to improve sexual function could be increasing cardiovascular risk. 

As to why more sex appears to be beneficial for older women is the feeling of more emotional and social support associated with a close relationship helping reduce stress and anxiety thereby promoting psychological well-being and protecting them from cardiovascular disease. 

This is not to say older men should automatically reduce the frequency of their sex life – besides many men would rather take their chances rather than giving up frequent sex.  But it does address that doctors should discuss with their older male patients who have existing cardiovascular disease of the potential risks of having strenuous sex and how to still have sex at the frequency they want without putting undue stress on their body.