London: Contrary to popular misconceptions, a significant study has found that older people are continuing to enjoy active sex lives well into their seventies and eighties.
According to researchers from the University of Manchester and Britain's leading independent social research institute NatCen Social Research, more than half (54 percent) of men and almost a third (31 percent) of women over age 70 reported they were still sexually active.
“A third of these men and women were having frequent sex - meaning at least twice a month,” revealed the data from the latest wave of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).
“This is the first nationally-representative study to include people over age 80 when asking older men and women in England about their sexual health,” said David Lee, an Age UK Research Fellow at the University of Manchester's school of social sciences.
We hope our findings improve public health by countering stereotypes and misconceptions about late-life sexuality, and offer older people a reference against which they may relate their own experiences and expectations, he noted.
Of the more than 7,000 people who responded to the questionnaire, very few (less than 3 percent) declined to answer direct questions about their sexual activities and problems.
Problems most frequently reported by sexually active women related to becoming sexually aroused (32 percent) and achieving orgasm (27 percent), while for men it was erectile difficulties (39 percent).
Chronic health conditions and poor self-rated health seemed to have more obvious negative impacts on the sexual health of men compared to women.
Men were more concerned about their sexual activities and function than women and, with increasing age, these concerns tended to become more common.
Sexually active women were less dissatisfied with their overall sex lives than men and also reported decreasing levels of dissatisfaction with increasing age.
The study also found that many septuagenarians and octogenarians were still affectionate towards their partners, with 31 percent of men and 20 percent of women reporting frequent kissing or petting.
“It is important that health professionals act on this and are more open about discussing sexual health with older people - it can't simply be assumed to be an irrelevance,” Lee said.
The paper appeared in the academic journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour.