This cohort study found that enjoyment of sexuality is associated with longevity in older adults, but only if they perceive sexuality as important.
Sexual well-being refers to the evaluation of one’s sexuality that can be expressed, valued, and influenced in different ways (e.g., enjoyment, activity, etc.). It has been associated with social and psychological aspects of quality of life, as well as cardiovascular health, but is sexual well-being associated with longevity?
This cohort study involved 1,042 healthy older adult participants (average age of 66; 59% male) from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam who were followed during a 27-year period.
Sexual well-being was assessed by self-report for experience of sexuality, including enjoyment and importance. The vital status of each participant was evaluated with official population registries, and the logit of the Realized Probability of Dying (LRPD; the logit is a statistical function applied to the RPD measure) was used as a relative measure of longevity; life tables based on the total Dutch population were used as a reference.
The analyses were adjusted for sociodemographic, physical and mental health, lifestyle, and social and cultural covariates.
Overall, enjoyment of sexuality demonstrated a weak and nonsignificant positive association with longevity, and no association was found for participants who did not perceive sexuality as important; 60% of participants experienced their sexuality as enjoyable and 44% as important.
In participants who perceived sexuality as important, sexual enjoyment was associated with longevity. Positive affect, functional limitations, emotional loneliness, self-rated health, sense of mastery (i.e., feeling control over one’s life), and alcohol consumption accounted for 35% of this association.
For participants who perceived sexuality as important, considering one’s sex life as “very pleasant” extended lifespan by an estimated 7 years compared considering one’s sex life as “very unpleasant”.
These results should be interpreted with caution because i) the data on self-reported experience of sexuality were only collected once, ii) sexuality can be defined differently across individuals, and iii) several participants from the overall cohort (3,107 participants) did not respond to the experience of sexuality questionnaire.
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