Want to keep your brain fit and healthy even when your hairs are all gray? Well, dim the lights and get that bed frame creaking.
Researchers from Coventry University and the University of Oxford in the UK have found that increased sexual activity in your golden years is associated with better mental abilities.
The study, recently published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, pried into the sex lives of 73 people aged between 50 and 83 using a questionnaire. It asked them how often they engaged in sexual activity, along with other questions about their lifestyle and health. They then paired this with their results from a well-established test used to assess attention, memory, fluency, language, visuospatial ability, and general brainpower of older adults.
They discovered that those who engaged in weekly sexual activity scored the highest results, especially in regards to their verbal fluency and overall cognition. On the other hand, getting in between the sheets more was not associated with increased attention, memory, or language.
This isn't the first time scientists have found this association. In 2016, a separate study by Coventry University found that older men’s sexual activity levels were linked to higher scores of word-recall and number sequencing tests.
This research only looked at a correlation between sex and mental abilities, so it did not find or even imply any causation. Indeed, it could be that those who are more mentally able have a busier sex life simply because they are generally more healthy and physically able to partake in sexual activity.
Across the groups, there were no significant differences in age, education, cardiovascular health, marital status, or quality of life. The researchers hope this study will prompt further research into the role of certain neurotransmitters and hormones, such as dopamine and oxytocin, which could explain the relationship between sexual activity and brain function.
"We can only speculate whether this is driven by social or physical elements – but an area we would like to research further is the biological mechanisms that may influence this,” lead researcher Dr Hayley Wright, from Coventry University's Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour, and Achievement, said in a statement.
"Every time we do another piece of research we are getting a little bit closer to understanding why this association exists at all, what the underlying mechanisms are, and whether there is a 'cause and effect' relationship between sexual activity and cognitive function in older people.
"People don't like to think that older people have sex – but we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over, beyond the known effects on sexual health and general wellbeing."