COVENTRY, England — Seniors looking for an extra excuse to keep an active sex life can turn to some new research out of the United Kingdom. A new study finds that more frequent sexual activity in our elder years packs an energizing punch for our brains.
Researchers at Coventry University in England followed up on a 2016 study that found sexually active older adults scored higher on cognitive tests than those who weren’t as busy in the bedroom.
For the latest study, the authors surveyed 73 people between ages 50 and 83 to see if the frequency of sexual activity they’d engaged in over the previous 12 months showed any advantages or disadvantages. They also gauged their general health and lifestyle habits, and had them take a standardized test that determines levels of brain functionality.
The study panel, comprised of 28 men and 45 women, were tested on areas of attention, memory, fluency, language, and visuospatial activity. They determined that the participants who enjoyed an active sex life — getting randy at least once a week — scored the highest among their peers, particularly in the area of verbal fluency.
One test had participants name as many animals as they could in a minute, then come up with as many words that started with “F” as they could. Another portion of the exam asked the individuals to draw a clock face from memory. The most sexually active individuals showed greatest strength on these two segments.
Conversely, having sex more frequently didn’t seem to make a difference when it came to areas of the test associated with attention, memory, or language.
“People don’t like to think that older people have sex – but we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over, beyond the known effects on sexual health and general wellbeing,” says lead researcher Dr. Hayley Wright.
Moving forward, Wright hopes to determine how chemicals in the brain, particularly dopamine and oxytocin play a role in the advantages older adults enjoy for active sex lives.
“Every time we do another piece of research we are getting a little bit closer to understanding why this association exists at all, what the underlying mechanisms are, and whether there is a ‘cause and effect’ relationship between sexual activity and cognitive function in older people,” says Wright.
The study was published last week in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences.