In a study released today in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, researchers found that people who indulged in frequent, regular sexual activity scored higher on a swath of mental tests.
Their verbal fluency was better.
Their ability to visually perceive objects was improved.
And they could judge the space between objects better.
So is it all just about picking out another potential partner from among a crowd, and then chatting them up?
The Coventry and Oxford University scientists didn’t go there.
Instead, their study builds upon research published last year which suggests sexually active adults generally score higher on cognitive tests. But that study did not examine the specific impact of the frequency of sex.
Another study, released earlier this year by the Oregon State University, found employees who were having more sex (at home) reported higher morale, greater job satisfaction and a greater sense of ‘engagement’.
It argued that the sexual ‘afterglow’ produced by sex-hormones dopamine and oxytocin lingered for up to 24 hours in both men and women. This influenced their perceptions and performance, it said.
The Coventry and Oxford researchers were looking at how regular sex influences the way we age.
Their study involved 73 people aged between 50 and 83.
“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,” says lead researcher Dr Hayley Wright from Coventry University.
“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.”
The study determined how often they had engaged in sex during the past 12 months, categorised in a range from not at all through to more than once a week, and noted details on their general health and lifestyle.
The 28 men and 45 women were also given a series test normally used to measure patterns of brain function in older adults.
They are designed to measure attention, memory, fluency, language and spatial performance.
Those reporting the highest level of sexual activity — more than once a week — scored the best.
And the most notable difference was in their verbal abilities.
But frequent sex doesn’t appear to improve attention levels.
Nor does it have any influence on memory or vocabulary.
But it did produce noticeably higher visual performance.
“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,” Dr Wright says.
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