More People Enjoy Sex After Age 70 According to Research

A Healthy Sex Life Is Part of Healthy Aging

A senior couple in bed.
A senior couple in bed. Mark Bowden/Vetta/Getty Images

Is sex for older adults just as common, and just as satisfying, as it is for younger adults? In the past, not much research in this area existed. People assumed that, as people got older, sex became a thing of the past. Now, we know that people aged 70 and beyond are reporting having active, fulfilling sex lives.

Research on Sex After Age 70

Since 1970, researchers in Sweden have been surveying people over the age of 70 about their sex lives.

One very interesting thing about the Swedish study is that we can compare this data from the 1970s to data we have today. For example, in 1971, only 52 percent of married men aged 70 and up reported that they were still sexually active, compared to the 68 percent we see in more recent research. Similarly, just 38 percent of married women over the age of 70 reported being sexually active in 1971, compared to 56 percent quoted in more recent research.

For unmarried older adults, there has been a similar increase in reported instances of sexual activity. 30 percent of single men and less than 1 percent of single women reported being sexually active in the context of that 1971 study. Now, 30 percent of single men and 12 percent of single women report that they are still having sex.

Okay, But How Much Sex Are They Really Having?

Older adults are having more sex than you might think. Of all the sexually active older adults, 25 percent report having sex at least once a week (compared with 10 percent in the 1970s).

Not only that, but at least half of the men and women said their relationships were “very happy.”

Which Older Adults Are More Likely to Be Sexually Active?

A further review of the data found these factors were most associated with being sexually active at age 70:

  • Positive attitude toward sexuality
  • Being married or cohabitating
  • Having a very happy relationship
  • Having a partner who was physically and mentally healthy
  • Good physical and mental health
  • Getting good sleep
  • Drinking alcohol more than three times per week

At age 70, the study found people were less likely to be still sexually active if their partner was older or if they had diabetes, coronary heart disease, or depression.

Why Might Older Adults Be Having More Sex?

  • People are living longer and are healthier. The average 70-year-old today is healthier than the average 70-year-old in 1970 and has a longer life expectancy.
  • Sexual dysfunctions are readily treated. Men have access to a number of medications (like Viagra) to treat erectile dysfunction.
  • The culture has changed. The expectations of older adults are different from what they were in the 1970s.

A Word From Verywell

You have a better chance than ever to enjoy sex long into your older years. Sex doesn't end at age 70, and the majority of those who reach that age in good health and in a relationship continue to have sex. Attitudes towards sex have changed over the past decades, and more people are entering older age expecting to continue to enjoy sex.

Sources:

Beckman N, Waern M, Gustafson D, Skoog I. Secular trends in self reported sexual activity and satisfaction in Swedish 70 year olds: cross sectional survey of four populations, 1971-2001. Bmj. 2008;337(jul08 3). doi:10.1136/bmj.a279.

Beckman N, Waern M, Östling S, Sundh V, Skoog I. Determinants of Sexual Activity in Four Birth Cohorts of Swedish 70‐year‐olds Examined 1971–2001. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2014;11(2):401-410. doi:10.1111/jsm.12381.

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