The Health Benefits of Sex Over 50
I am a strong believer in the positive effects of regular sexuality activity. In my own experience, sexual activity benefits my mental and physical state—it puts me in a better mood and contributes to my sexual health. Now I can add increased cognition functioning to the list of benefits. Yes, sex improves brain health.
A study recently published in The Journals of Gerontology analyzed sexual activity and cognitive functions of 73 adults, aged 50 to 83 years. One of three studies reaching similar conclusions, researchers Writing, Jenks, and Demeyere concluded “that older men and women who engage in regular SA (sexual activity) have better cognitive functioning than those who do not engage in SA, or do so infrequently.” (Study Link)
Regular sexual activity is defined as “engagement in sexual intercourse, masturbation, or petting/fondling” correlated with greater degrees of cognitive skill.
Diagnosis: Aging. The Treatment? More Sex.
It sounds simple, but it’s not. If you’re in a partnered relationship and having sex, then keep on having sex. But what if you’re single? Or in a relationship that no longer provides any sexual activity or physical touch?
How does this study reflect the benefits of sexual activity for women without a sexual partner? The study focused on partnered activities so we don’t have any correlation between solo activities and cognition. The researchers talked about the social aspect of sexual activity, speculating on its affect on cognitive strengths. What’s need now is an analysis on adults without partners who maintain regular solo sexual activities.
I suspect we would find some correlation, though not as strong as with coupled sex. The appeal of sexual activity with a partner is partly the interaction—the conversation and the engagement of two people. It is possible to have an orgasm alone and to benefit from that activity emotional and physically, but it’s not the same as sex with a partner.
What do these result means for your sex life?
What Kind of Sex Improves Brain Health?
All of it! If you’re single you should still make time to give yourself pleasure. Self-stimulation leads to arousal, bringing blood flow to the vulva and vaginal tissues. Increased blood flow nourishes cells and helps to fight off dryness and fragile tissue. The physical and chemical reaction provided by an orgasm gives the body a burst of oxytocin, a hormone which provides a greater sense of well-being, and in some cases pain reduction.
As the study noted, various levels of sexual activity provide us with cognitive benefits. Petting/fondling, to use the study’s language, are grouped along with masturbation and sexual intercourse. Older adults can engage in pleasurable activity without having intercourse.
My book, Inviting Desire, includes a section on what to do if you’re no longer having sex with a current partner. I talk about finding a way to start that conversation with a partner as a first step to intimacy.
“What steps can you take to add intimacy to your relationship again? It’s rarely as simple as saying, “I’m ready to have sex again.” You might want to start with more general conversation about your relationship.” -Inviting Desire
Using this article, or the journal article, can be a good way to start a conversation.
I was reading an article discussing the cognitive benefits of having sex, for older adults. Maybe we need to think about this.
Did you know we could improve our cognitive skills by kissing and touching more?
Using the research is a less personal and less threatening way to start the conversation between you and a partner. It would make a great launching off point to bring up the reasons to have sex again.
Inviting Desire offers exercises and suggestions for each section—with a focus on building desire again, talking to partners, learning what you want and more. If you’re ready to increase your cognitive functions and bring back some sexy fun to your relationship, this may be the book for you!