An increasing number of 70 year olds are having good sex and more often, and women in this age group are particularly satisfied with their sex lives, according to a study published today on BMJ.com.
Knowledge about sexual behaviour in older people (70 year olds) is limited and mainly focuses on sexual problems, less is known about "normal" sexual behaviour in this age group.
Nils Beckman and colleagues from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, studied attitudes to sex in later life among four representative population samples of 70 year olds in Sweden, who they interviewed in 1971-2, 1976-7, 1992-3, and 2000-1. In total, over 1 500 people aged 70 years were interviewed about different aspects of their sex lives including sexual dysfunctions, marital satisfaction and sexual activity.
The authors found that over the thirty year period the number of 70 year olds of both sexes reporting sexual intercourse increased: married men from 52% to 68%, married women from 38% to 56%, unmarried men from 30% to 54%, and unmarried women from 0.8% to 12%.
In addition, the number of women reporting high sexual satisfaction increased, more women reported having an orgasm during sex and fewer reported never having had an orgasm.
While the proportion of women reporting low satisfaction with their sex lives decreased, the proportion of men reporting low satisfaction increased. The authors suggest that this might be because it is now more acceptable for men to admit "failure" in sexual matters.
They also note that the number of men reporting erectile dysfunction deceased, whereas the proportion reporting ejaculation dysfunction increased, but the proportion reporting premature ejaculation did not change.
Interestingly, both men and women blame men when sexual intercourse stops between them. This finding replicates the results of other studies in the 1950s and 2005-06.
"Our study…shows that most elderly people consider sexual activity and associated feelings a natural part of later life", they conclude.
These findings emphasise the important and positive part sex plays in the lives of 70 year olds and is a welcome contribution to the limited literature about sexual behaviour in older people, writes Professor Peggy Kleinplatz from the University of Ottawa in Canada.
It will hopefully highlight the need for doctors to be trained to ask all patients, regardless of age, about their sexual concerns, she adds.