Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Men likelier to enjoy sex in old age, study finds

Sunbathers (Picturenation)
Gender differences increase with age

Men are more likely than women to enjoy sex in old age, researchers have found.

Men can expect nearly five extra years of an active sex life compared with women, according to a review of US data surveying about 6,000 people.

At 55, men have on average 15 years of sexually active life ahead of them, and women only 10.5 years, the British Medical Journal reports.

The key is good health, say the researchers, as it boosts sex drive and enjoyment.

Good health means people are almost twice as likely to be interested in sex compared with those who are ill or in poorer health.

They are also likely to have regular sex - once or more a week - and report better quality lovemaking, experts found.

Gender differences

Overall, men were more likely than women to be sexually active, report a good-quality sex life and be interested in sex.

As others have said, the reason people stop having sex is the same reason people stop riding a bicycle - they can't get on or they have not got a bike
Paula Hall

And these gender differences increased with age.

The biggest gap was among 75- to 85-year-olds, where 38.9% of men said they were sexually active, compared with 16.8% of women.

Another 41.2% of the men were interested in sex, compared with 11.4% of the women.

Stacy Tessler Lindau and Natalia Gavrilova, from the University of Chicago, looked at US data from one group of men and women aged 25 to 74 and another group aged 57 to 85.

They say other factors may explain the findings. Opportunity may play some part.

Around three-quarters of men across all age groups said they had a partner.

Among women, though, only two-thirds of respondents between 25 and 54 had a partner.

For women aged 75 and beyond, fewer than four in 10 had a partner, reflecting women's longer lifespan and the tendency of men to marry younger women.

Commenting on the work Patricia Goodson, a professor at Texas A&M University, said it was good news that adults can enjoy "many years of sexual activity beyond age 55".

But she said: "The measure sheds no light on the intriguing - and still poorly understood - question of why, even though they enjoy fewer years of a sexually active life, many women do not perceive this as a 'problem'.

"Neither does the measure provide details on how women and men manage, attempt to enhance, or deal meaningfully (and uniquely) with their ageing sexuality."

Paula Hall, a counsellor for the charity Relate, said: "Sexual function seems to slow down as we age.

"But biologically, if we have good health there's no reason why a couple cannot continue to have a sex life.

"As others have said, the reason people stop having sex is the same reason people stop riding a bicycle - they can't get on or they have not got a bike."

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