So much emphasis is placed on problems of sexuality as we age that there has been little attention paid to the attitudes and opinions of the aging population enjoying a satisfying sex life. Swedish researchers, however, have been examining the sexual satisfaction of people over 70 since 1971 and their research seems to indicate older people are much more happy with sex after 70 than they were just 30 years ago.
Nils Beckman headed up the research team from the University of Gothenburg as they polled more than 1,500 70-year-old men and women in the general population on four separate occasions from 1971 to 2001. Interview topics included sexual activity, sexual dysfunction, and marital satisfaction.
Some of the research findings include:
- Sexual activities increased over the 30-year period for both genders.
- Married men reporting sexual intercourse rose from 52% in 1971 to 68% in 2001.
- Married women reported an increase in sexual intercourse from 38% to 56%.
- Unmarried men who reported having sexual intercourse rose from 30% to 54%.
- Unmarried women reporting sexual intercourse rose from 0.8% to 12%.
- Women reporting orgasm during sex increased over the study period.
- The number of women who say they never had an orgasm declined over the study period.
Fewer women at the end of the study reported low levels of sexual satisfaction than those at the beginning but the opposite was true for men, who reported less satisfaction at the end of the study than at the beginning. The research team suggests the number of men reporting less satisfying sexual activities toward the end of the study may be because it has become more acceptable now for men to admit to less than stellar sexual performance.
With regard to sexual dysfunction in men, the number of men reporting erectile dysfunction decreased over time but the number reporting problems with ejaculation increased. The percentage of men who reported premature ejaculation remained about the same throughout the study period.
One finding the research team considers interesting is that both sexes attribute the decline of sexual activities to the man in the relationship. Studies from the 1950s and in 2005 and 2006 reported similar conclusions.
The research team says their study is proof that many elderly people think of sexual relationships as a normal part of life, regardless of age. Because study participants consider an active sex life after 70 to be a positive and important aspect of a healthy life, it is expected that physicians will incorporate sexual concerns into a routine part of medical care to this population.
Full details of this study have been published at BMJ.com.