MONDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Among older married Americans, an active sex life is associated with greater happiness with their marriages and with life in general, according to a new study.
The finding is based on an analysis of the responses of 238 married people 65 and older who took part in the 2004 General Social Surveys.
Sexual-activity frequency significantly predicted both overall and marital happiness, and this association remained even after factors such as age, gender, health status and financial satisfaction were taken into account.
Nearly 60 percent of those who had sex more than once a month were very happy with life in general, compared with 40 percent of those who had no sex in the last year. Nearly 80 percent of those who had sex more than once a month were very happy with their marriage, compared with 59 percent of those who had no sex in the last year.
The findings were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in Boston.
"This study will help open the lines of communication and spark interest in developing 'outside-the-box' approaches to dealing with resolvable issues that limit or prevent older adults from participating in sexual activity," study author Adrienne Jackson, an assistant professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, said in a society news release.
"Highlighting the relationship between sex and happiness will help us in developing and organizing specific sexual-health interventions for this growing segment of our population," Jackson added.
To assess frequency of sexual activity, survey participants were asked the following question: "About how many times did you have sex during the last 12 months? By 'sex' we mean vaginal, oral or anal sex."
Participants were also asked the following questions to assess general happiness, and marital happiness, respectively: "Taken all together, how would you say things are these days -- would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?"; "Taking things all together, how would you describe your marriage? Would you say that your marriage is very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?"
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about sexuality in later life.