Better Health = More Sex

The better your health, the more sex you’ll have in your lifetime, according to a study published by researchers on aging at the University of Chicago in BMJ. The researchers discovered that the amount of your life that you are sexually active increases the healthier you are.

The authors of the BMJ study, Stacy Tessler Lindau and Natalia Gavrilova, thought up the epidemiological term ‘sexually active life expectancy’: the number of years that, at a given moment, a group of individuals will probably still be sexually active.

The number of years you probably still have to live, your life expectancy, is not the same as your sexually active life expectancy. Statistics tell us that the older people are, the more likely it is that they no longer have sex. In the group of men and women aged 75-85, for example, only thirty percent still have sex.

This is largely due to deteriorating health, the researchers discovered. They base their arguments on data on six thousand adults aged between 25 and 85, gathered for the MIDUS study in the 1990s and the NSHAP study, which was done in 2005.

The researchers discovered that the men and women with very good or excellent health were at least twice as sexually active as men and women in fair or poor health.


The researchers used data from the MIDUS study to compile the figure below. An average 30-year-old man probably still has 45 years to live. And he’ll be sexually active for 35 of those 45 years. He’ll have to do without sex for the last ten years of his life.


In the figure below the researchers focused on the sexually active life expectancy. According to the figure, a 30-year-old man with fair or poor health can expect to have 30 years of sex. A 30-year-old man with very good or excellent health on the other hand is likely to have almost 40 more years with active sex.


Fortunately your health is something that you can take charge of yourself to a fair extent. It is your lifestyle that largely determines how healthy you are and your life expectancy. [N Engl J Med. 2003 Sep 11;349(11):1048-55.] You don’t need a high income to live a healthy lifestyle, and you don’t need to have studied to a high level either. Living longer and more healthily isn’t so difficult. The links below will give you some ideas.

Sex, health, and years of sexually active life gained due to good health: evidence from two US population based cross sectional surveys of ageing.

Lindau ST, Gavrilova N.


Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Chicago, 5841 S Maryland Avenue, MC2050, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.



To examine the relation between health and several dimensions of sexuality and to estimate years of sexually active life across sex and health groups in middle aged and older adults.


Cross sectional study.


Two samples representative of the US population: MIDUS (the national survey of midlife development in the United States, 1995-6) and NSHAP (the national social life, health and ageing project, 2005-6).


3032 adults aged 25 to 74 (1561 women, 1471 men) from the midlife cohort (MIDUS) and 3005 adults aged 57 to 85 (1550 women, 1455 men) from the later life cohort (NSHAP).


Sexual activity, quality of sexual life, interest in sex, and average remaining years of sexually active life, referred to as sexually active life expectancy.


Overall, men were more likely than women to be sexually active, report a good quality sex life, and be interested in sex. These gender differences increased with age and were greatest among the 75 to 85 year old group: 38.9% of men compared with 16.8% of women were sexually active, 70.8% versus 50.9% of those who were sexually active had a good quality sex life, and 41.2% versus 11.4% were interested in sex. Men and women reporting very good or excellent health were more likely to be sexually active compared with their peers in poor or fair health: age adjusted odds ratio 2.2 (P<0.01) for men and 1.6 (P<0.05) for women in the midlife study and 4.6 (P<0.001) for men and 2.8 (P<0.001) for women in the later life study. Among sexually active people, good health was also significantly associated with frequent sex (once or more weekly) in men (adjusted odds ratio 1.6 to 2.1), with a good quality sex life among men and women in the midlife cohort (adjusted odds ratio 1.7), and with interest in sex. People in very good or excellent health were 1.5 to 1.8 times more likely to report an interest in sex than those in poorer health. At age 30, sexually active life expectancy was 34.7 years for men and 30.7 years for women compared with 14.9 to 15.3 years for men and 10.6 years for women at age 55. This gender disparity attenuated for people with a spouse or other intimate partner. At age 55, men in very good or excellent health on average gained 5-7 years of sexually active life compared with their peers in poor or fair health. Women in very good or excellent health gained 3-6 years compared with women in poor or fair health.


Sexual activity, good quality sexual life, and interest in sex were higher for men than for women and this gender gap widened with age. Sexual activity, quality of sexual life, and interest in sex were positively associated with health in middle age and later life. Sexually active life expectancy was longer for men, but men lost more years of sexually active life as a result of poor health than women.