MONDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Life for men aged 75 or older
doesn't mean an end to sex, according to an Australian study.
The researchers found that almost a third of these older men
were sexually active at least once a year -- including about 1 in
10 men aged 90 to 95.
What's more, many older men who are sexually active say they'd
love to be having more sex. Others are forgoing sex due to health
issues, low testosterone levels or simply a lack of partners.
The study, based on a survey of Australian men aged 75-95, most
of whom were married or living with a partner, found that younger
seniors were busiest of all: 40 percent of those aged 75-79 said
they'd had sex in the past 12 months. But even among those aged
90-95, 11 percent reported sexual activity with someone else over
the prior year.
"Although many people, including some clinicians, continue to believe that sexual activity is not important to older people, our study shows this is not the case. Even in the 10th decade of life, 1 in 5 men still considered sex important," said study lead author Zoe Hyde, a researcher at the University of Western Australia.
The findings appear in the Dec. 7 issue of the
Annals of Internal Medicine.
Several studies in recent years have tried to analyze sexuality
in older people, who are sometimes assumed to have little or no
interest in sex. The popularity of Viagra and related drugs seems
to suggest that's hardly the case, but solid numbers have been
tough to find.
However, one 2007 study in the
New England Journal of Medicine reported that a bit more than
half of people surveyed in the U.S. aged 65-74 reported recent
sexual activity, as did 26 percent of those aged 74-85.
In the new study, researchers examined the results of a
sexuality study of almost 2,800 Australian men who didn't live in
nursing homes or other health-care facilities. Among other things,
the researchers asked the men if they'd had sexual activity with a
partner -- not necessarily intercourse -- within the past year.
Overall, close to 49 percent of men aged 75 to 95 considered sex
at least "somewhat important," and just under 31 percent had been
sexually active with another person at least once during the
The study linked a variety of factors to a lack of sexual
activity among older men. "Increasing age, lower testosterone
levels, a partner's lack of interest in sex, or physical
limitations, osteoporosis, prostate cancer, diabetes, use of
depression drugs, and use of some blood pressure drugs
(beta-blockers) were associated with absence of sexual activity,"
the team wrote.
Overall, Hyde said, the study suggests that health problems are
the main reason why some older men aren't sexually active. "But
also lack of a partner and decreased interest in sex for some
people are important factors, too," she said.
The researchers took special note of the connection between
lower testosterone levels and less sexual activity. "However, it
would be too early to suggest testosterone therapy to improve
sexual interest and activity in older men at this stage," Hyde
As for older women, studies have suggested that pain and lack of
satisfaction are major issues for them, said Dr. Stacy Tessler
Lindau, an associate professor who studies sexuality at the
University of Chicago. "If men are having sex, they report
satisfaction. That's not necessarily true for women."
Lindau's 2007 study found that only 17 percent of women aged
75-85 reported having some sort of sex over the past year, compared
to 39 percent of men.
Were older men who were having sexual relations satisfied with
how often it was happening? The new survey showed slightly more
than half (56.5 percent) of those who reported having some kind of
sex within the previous year said they were happy with how much sex
they were getting. But 43 percent of them said they had sex less
often than they would like.
It's not clear if the findings are applicable to the United
States, but Hyde said the results are similar to those from other
Lindau, lead author of the 2007
NEJM study of seniors and sexuality, said this kind of
research helps shine a light on a valuable and often-overlooked
side of life for many older people.
"We know that sexual activity is associated with good physical and mental health. Whether good sex promotes good health or vice versa is still a good question," she said. "But if we fail to recognize older adults as having sexual lives, then we fail to engage them on the topic, reinforce positive sexual experiences or help them address sexual problems when they arise."
There's more on sexual health at the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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