Is sex in later years good for your health?: Having sex frequently - and enjoying it - puts older men at higher risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. For older women, however, good sex may actually lower the risk of hypertension.
That's according to the first large-scale study of how sex affects heart health in later life. The federally funded research, led by a Michigan State University scholar, is slated to be published online Sept. 6 in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
"These findings challenge the widely held assumption that sex brings uniform health benefits to everyone," said Hui Liu, MSU associate professor of sociology.
Liu and colleagues analyzed survey data from 2,204 people in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. Participants were aged 57-85 when the first wave of data was collected in 2005-06; another round of data was collected five years later. Cardiovascular risk was measured as hypertension, rapid heart rate, elevated C-reactive protein and general cardiovascular events: heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
Older men who had sex once a week or more were much more likely to experience cardiovascular events five years later than men who were sexually inactive, the study found. This risk was not found among older women.
"Strikingly, we find that having sex once a week or more puts older men at a risk for experiencing cardiovascular events that is almost two times greater than older men who are sexually inactive," said Liu. "Moreover, older men who found sex with their partner extremely pleasurable or satisfying had higher risk of cardiovascular events than men who did not feel so."