BOSTON — According to a report in the December 2010 issue of the Harvard Health Letter, Americans are maintaining intimacy through their 60s, 70s and even 80s.
The article summed up findings from two surveys investigating intimacy health in older Americans. Indiana University researchers reported earlier this year that 20% to 30% of long-lived Americans are active into their 80s. And a University of Chicago survey originally published in 2007 found that half of Americans continue to engage well into their 70s.
The Health Letter offers several possible explanations for sexuality extending later into life, notably that people are staying healthy longer. In fact, the University of Chicago study found a close association between good health and sexual activity among older people, particularly among men. Diabetes seems to have a greater negative effect than either arthritis or high blood pressure on both genders, but especially on women.
Half of those who participated in the University of Chicago study reported having at least one health-related problem. Among men, the problems included difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection (37%) and the lack of interest in sex (28%). Among women, the common problems were lack of interest in sex (43%) and difficulty with lubrication (39%).
In the Indiana survey, 30% of the women ages 50 years and older said they experienced some level of pain during their most recent sexual experience with a partner.
In the Indiana survey, 17% of men ages 50 years and older took an erectile dysfunction drug in connection with their most recent sexual experience with a partner. In the University of Chicago study, 14% of the men and 1% of the women reported taking medications or supplements to improve sexual function during the past year.