WEDNESDAY, March 10, 2010 (Health.com) — Some might call it a fair trade: Women tend to live longer than men, but men have longer—and better—sex lives in their later years, new research shows.
Older men are more likely than their female counterparts to be sexually active, to have a good sex life, and to crave sex, according to a study based on two large national surveys that included more than 6,000 people.
Although both men and women become less sexually active as they age, women appear to do so at a faster rate. Thirty-nine percent of men between the ages of 75 and 85 said they were having sex, compared to 17% of women in the same age bracket, the study showed.
In the same age group, 41% of men and 11% of women said they were “interested in sex.” Men of all ages also rated the quality of their sex life higher than women did.
Staying healthy seems to be the key to keeping the fire alive in your golden years. The healthier older men and women are, the more sex they are likely to have and the more years they will have it, according to the study, which was published in the British Medical Journal.
“This is a good reason to stay healthy and keep your partner healthy,” says lead researcher Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago. “Sex is a really important issue, but we don’t take it into account when measuring quality of life. Now we can.”
Dr. Lindau and her colleagues developed a new statistic, “sexually active life expectancy,” which is exactly what it sounds like: how many years of sex you’ve got left. They calculated the measure by combining survey data on age, reported level of sexual activity, and how healthy the respondents considered themselves to be.
When it comes to sex, the normal life-expectancy patterns are reversed, the researchers found. At age 55, men have 15 more years of sexual activity to look forward to, on average, while women have just 10.6 years.
There is some good news: As with your overall life expectancy, healthy living can add years to your sex life. Men over age 55 who stay in very good or excellent health gain five to seven extra years of sexual activity, while women who stay healthy gain up to six years, Dr. Lindau and her colleagues estimated.
“People in relationships should continue to have sex until the age of 99,” says Ruth Westheimer, better known as Dr. Ruth, the sex therapist, radio and TV personality, and author of books including Dr. Ruth’s Sex After 50. “The older generation has to be reeducated that sex at later ages is not dirty or something to be laughed at, but to be cultivated.”
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