Spring is coming, and a young man’s thoughts turn to … you know. Apparently, old men’s thoughts turn to the same subject. According to an article to be published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal, 67% of men ages 65 to 74 said they had been sexually active in the past year, compared with just 40% of women in that age group. Everyone knows young men think constantly about sex, but many guys remain interested in sex until they are almost dead: more than one-third of men ages 75 to 85 said they had sex in the past 12 months, compared with just 17% of women in that age group.
Some of this surely has to do with Viagra, which makes it easier for older men to be interested in sex. But the disparity in sexual activity between older men and older women isn’t entirely explained by the 1998 release of the little blue pill. One set of data presented in the new paper taken from the National Survey of Midlife Development, involving about 3,000 adults ages 25 to 74 was collected in 1995 and 1996. That data set shows that 62% of men ages 65 to 74 reported sexual activity in the previous six months; only 36% of women in the same age group did so.
These differences matter because having a healthy sex life is strongly associated with having a healthy life, period and also a longer life. Scientists aren’t sure about the causal relationship here. Sexually active people tend to be healthier, and healthier people tend to be sexually active. It could be that the fulfillment of sex gives you a health boost, or that being more fit makes sex better or, more likely, it’s a little of both.
What we do know, from this new paper, is that if you are a 30-year-old male, you can be expected to have sex for 35 more years. The authors Dr. Stacy Tessler Lindau and researcher Natalia Gavrilova of the University of Chicago call this measure your “sexually active life expectancy,” or SALE. A 30-year-old woman has a SALE of just 31 more years. But women live about five years longer than men, so when you do the math, all this means that women go approximately twice as long without sex as men before they die.