When it comes to the quality of life for older adults, past studies have examined factors such as social activity and diet. Two recent reports have examined another potential (and also overlooked) happiness barometer for seniors ‒ sexual activity.
One study was authored by two researchers from Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University, and surveyed a total of 133 Scottish seniors. Each of these individuals provided personal information regarding their sexaul behavior during the prior six months. Among these behaviors were touching/holding hands, embracing/hugging, kissing and sexual intercourse.
In addition, the survey also asked the seniors to attach a numerical value to each of these activities. Each behavior was ranked on a scale from one to five; a score of “one” denoted a behavior that was “not at all important,” whereas a score of “five” was used to describe “very important” actions. The research team also documented the participants’ physical health, mental wellbeing and relationships with others. The seniors’ living environment was also taken into consideration.
When reviewing their data, the authors determined that adults who enjoyed high quality social relationships were also more sexually active. Furthermore, subjects who placed a strong personal emphasis on sexual health had better psychological health scores. While sexual activity did have a significant impact on quality of life, the most important factor in this regard was the seniors’ physical health.
One of the study’s co-authors, Alan Gow, cautioned that the study does conclusively link sexual behavior to happier lives. However, Gow did express hope that this possible connection would be the focus of future studies. In an email to the Reuters news agency, the associate professor of psychology stated that “what we hope is that our current findings encourage other researchers interested in the determinants of health and well-being in older adults to also consider sexual behaviors.” The journal Age and Ageing featured the study in its September 2015 issue.
The Key to a Better Marriage?
A team of John Hopkins researchers published their own take on this subject in the Journal of Gerontology. This group measured the physical health, mental health and sexual activity of 732 couples, all of whom were between the ages of 65 and 74. The researchers also recorded how satisfied the subjects were with their marriages.
According to the study, marital satisfaction was found to be noticeably high among couples who were both physically healthy and sexually active. Moreover, subjects who had frequent sex with their partners were often in better physical and mental shape than their counterparts.
It bears mentioning that the Johns Hopkins team counted all forms of sexual contact and pleasure as sexual activity. The study found that both genders benefited from robust sex lives, though not equally; the report’s findings were more pronounced in men than in women.