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Too little sex life in old age favors cancer and heart disease

Too little sex life in old age favors cancer and heart disease

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How does reduced sexual activity affect old age?

A lack of sexual activity in older adults is associated with poorer health, including an increased risk of cancer and coronary artery disease.

University College London's latest research found that lack of sexual activity in older people contributes to various health problems and diseases. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Archives of Sexuel Behavior".

More diseases in old age

Life expectancy in high-income countries has increased significantly in recent decades. However, with increasing life expectancy, the number of years in which health problems and disabilities occur. In their investigation, the researchers wanted to find out whether sexual activity is a key behavior that affects health at an advanced age. In general, it is believed that as people get older, they become asexual and decrease interest in sex and sexual behavior. It is therefore imperative to determine whether sexual activity has a general impact on health, the researchers emphasize.

Data from more than 5,700 people were evaluated

In order to arrive at the results, the research team used the data from an English longitudinal study on aging (ELSA) over a period of four years between 2013 and 2017. The participants were men and women aged 50 years and older, who were in England lived. The researchers wanted to investigate the health, lifestyle and financial situation of people with increasing age. In total, they analyzed the information from more than 5,700 people and found that men over the age of 50 with less sexual intercourse and less sexual activity had a two-thirds higher risk of developing a serious illness. Women who were not very active sexually had a 64 percent higher risk of various diseases. However, there was no significant increase in the risk of serious illness, the research group reports.

In contrast, men with little sexual activity were found to have a 63 percent higher risk of cancer and a 41 percent higher risk of chronic diseases. Regarding coronary artery disease, men who reported a decrease in sexual desire were 33 percent more likely than men who reported stable or increased sexual desire. Men with lower sexual activity had a 47 percent increased risk of deteriorating health. If the men suffered from erectile dysfunction, they had a 66 percent higher risk, the researchers further explain.

What role do our endorphins play?

Decreased sexuality, including desire, activity, and the ability to have an erection, has been associated with problems in a wide range of health factors. The frequency of sexual intercourse and sexual activity was associated with a decline in self-assessed health for both men and women, the researchers explain. There are mechanisms that can explain the phenomenon. For example, the body releases endorphins during sexual intercourse, opioids, which act as neurotransmitters. Endorphins are often called happiness hormones because they make us feel happy. If the endorphin level in the body is increased, cancer cells can also be killed more easily. Increased endorphin levels can be associated with a lower risk of cancer and other pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, the team explains. In addition, sexual activity is a physical activity and can therefore be viewed as a kind of exercise.

Strengths of the investigation?

This is the first study to examine the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between a decrease in sexuality (sexual desire, frequency of sexual activity and sexual function) and health problems in a large representative sample of older adults. The strengths of the study include the size of the representative sample of older adults in England and the adaptation to a range of socio-demographic and health-related confounding factors, the researchers explain. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Sarah E. Jackson, Lin Yang, Ai Koyanagi, Brendon Stubbs, Nicola Veronese, Lee Smith: Declines in Sexual Activity and Function Predict Incident Health Problems in Older Adults: Prospective Findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, in Archives of Sexuel Behavior ( Query: 02.09.2019), Archives of Sexuel Behavior

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