Science & Tech

Older people could see a surprising health benefit from having an active sex life

People on Twitter loved reading about Mc Aree’s heartwarming encounter with an elderly couple on his flight
People on Twitter loved reading about Mc Aree’s heartwarming encounter with an elderly couple on his flight
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A US study has revealed that sexual activity in older people is linked to better cognitive function later.

The study by sociologists Shannon Shena from Hope College and Hui Liub from Purdue University, published in The Journal of Sex Research looked at attention, memory, language, conceptual thinking, calculations, and orientation and found that sex is linked to better brain health across all age groups.

Those aged 75 to 90 were found to have significantly better cognitive function five years on if they were currently having sex at least once a week.

For adults aged 62 to 74, on the other hand, the most important factor for future brain health was the quality of sex being had, in terms of both physical and emotional aspects.

"As seen in our sample, promoting sexual quality among younger-old couples may be a way to combat the interruptions which people anticipate to come with aging," Shena and Luib said "and these feelings of sexual quality may manifest in their later cognitive health."

Shena and Liub think there are several reasons why these results could be the case.

Sex involves physical exercise, which means improved cognitive performance may be due to improved cardiovascular health, which, in turn, can increase blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation.

Sex can also reduce stress, and stress is thought to prevent the neuronal growth in some parts of the brain associated with memory.

Finally, sex may improve cognitive function through the release of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter linked to improved memory.

"Our findings help to contextualize a multifaceted understanding of healthy aging and speak to clinical practices and policy decisions regarding cognitive health," Shena and Luib wrote, "and in particular how it may be related to sexual life, an often overlooked area for older adults."

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