People over age 50 who are more sexually active also have better memory and cognitive skills than people who get busy less frequently, a new analyze from England suggests.
Sex appeared to give men’s brains a bigger boost than women’s: Man who were more sexually active indicated higher scores on tests of memory abilities and executive function — the mental processes involved in planning, solving problems and paying attention — whereas women who were more sexually active ensure only a higher score in their memory abilities, according to the findings, published online Jan. 28 in the journal Age and Ageing.
The study shows that there is a significant association between sexual activity and cognitive function in adults over 50, said analyse writer Hayley Wright, a researcher in cognitive aging at the Centre for Research in Psychology, Behavior and Achievement at Coventry University in England.
The researchers looked at data collected from more than 6,800 men and women ages 50 to 89 in England who were participating in a long-term analyse on aging.
The participants were asked whether they had engaged in sex activity over the past 12 months. The researchers employed a broad definition of sexual activity in the study — it included having intercourse, masturbating, petting or fondling.
Participants also completed two cognitive exams. One was a recollect test designed to measure memory, in which people were asked to remember a listing of 10 common terms immediately after hearing them, and then again following a brief delay. A second task, which gauged executive function, involved identifying the missing number in a numerical sequence.
There hasn’t been much research on how sex activity impacted on older adults’ thinking skills, the researchers said. The few prior analyzes that investigated the topic goes to show that sex activity was linked with better cognition in older humen.
The new analyze found that sexually active men and women scored higher than sexually inactive adults on the word-recall and number-sequencing tasks.
For older men, the link between scoring more in the bedroom and scoring higher on exams of memory and executive function held even after the researchers took into account other variables that could also affect exam outcomes, such as age, education, financial status, health, physical activity and loneliness, the study found.
After similar variables were taken into consideration, the researchers also found that sexually active older women only had higher ratings on memory tests than women who were not sexually active.
The reason sexually active older men had higher scores on both the memory test and the executive-function exam, whereas women’s sex lives appeared to benefit only their memory abilities, may be due to hormonal changes that may influence brain function in men and women in different ways, Wright said.
The study demonstrated an association between sexual activity and cognitive function, and was not meant to show a cause-and-effect relationship. It’s too early to tell whether sexuality is one style for older adults to keep their minds sharp or whether it is the other way around — that people who want a long and healthy sex life should start by doing things that are good for the brain, such as being physically and mentally active and feeing a healthy diet.
Wright was of the view that several other research projects will be done as follow-ups to this study. In one of them, which is nearly complete, the researchers are analyzing the data to understand the effect of factors — such as the frequency and type of sexual activity, as well as relationship satisfaction — on cognitive function scores in older adults.