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Health & Sex

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Older Americans Have Active Sex Lives

Sexually Active Older People Have Sex as Often as Younger People
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 22, 2007 -- Though half report bothersome sexual problems, sexually active Americans aged 57-85 have sex as often as those aged 18-59.

The findings come from a nationally representative sample of 3,005 U.S. residents. They show that sexual intimacy remains an important part of most people's lives as they age, says researcher Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, of the University of Chicago.

"Many older and younger men and women make the choice not to be sexually active. But the majority of people, young and old, do engage in sexuality," Lindau said at a news conference.

How sexually active are older Americans?

"An interesting finding is among those sexually active, the frequency we saw of sex two or three times a month or more is not different from 18- to 59-year-olds," Lindau said. "So if one has a partner, the frequency of sex does not change a lot between age groups."

It is people's health -- not their age -- that ultimately limits their sexual activity, says researcher Edward O. Laumann, PhD, of the University of Chicago.

Sexual inactivity is "much more a consequence of health than otherwise," Laumann said at the news conference. "When sexual health begins to deteriorate, it is an important warning sign of more profound health problems."

Inevitably, aging people do reach a point at which sex becomes increasingly rare, says researcher Linda J. Waite, PhD, of the University of Chicago.

"The one thing that surprised me was that among the oldest adults with sex partners, only a minority reported being sexually active," Waite said at the news conference. "There seems to be a point in people's lives when their health declines. They become frail, and -- although still partnered -- they are not having any kind of sexual activity. That is an important part of the picture of sexuality in older ages."

(How has sex changed in your life as you age? Share your experiences on WebMD's Active Aging: Support Group message board.)

Sex After 60: Key Findings

During the survey, trained researchers interviewed subjects, administered questionnaires asking intimate questions, and obtained medical data including blood, saliva, and vaginal swab samples.

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