Sex improves cognitive function for older adults

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Researchers found that the most sexually active adults aged between 50 and 83 scored higher in tasks testing brain function Getty Images

| The Times | June 22, 2017

Forget doing the crossword or taking a bracing walk with the dog. People who want to keep their brain sharp as they enter their twilight years should be having sex — and the more the better.

Researchers from the universities of Coventry and Oxford have established that more frequent sexual activity is linked to higher cognitive functions in older adults.

They recruited 73 healthy people aged between 50 and 83 and asked them to fill in questionnaires on their lifestyle, including whether they engaged in sexual activity weekly, monthly or never. Thirty-seven said weekly, 26 said monthly and ten said never.

They then performed tasks to assess brain function. The most sexually active group scored on average two percentage points higher in certain tasks than those who had sex monthly and four points higher than those who never had sex.

More frequent sexual activity was associated with a higher score in verbal fluency tests, such as naming as many animals or as many words beginning with “f” as possible within a minute and, to a lesser extent, copying from a complex pictorial design or drawing a clock face from memory.

There was, however, no discernible difference in tests to measure memory, language and attentiveness. The study, published in the The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, suggests that sexual activity is linked to the secretion of neuro-hormones such as dopamine or oxytocin that transmit signals in the brain.

Hayley Wright, of Coventry University’s centre for research in psychology, behaviour and achievement, said: “Sexual relationships in later life are . . . not just important for sex per se, [they are] impacting on other factors, in this case cognitive function.”

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