More frequent sexual activity has been linked to improved brain function in older adults, according to a study by the Universities of Coventry and Oxford.
Researchers found that people who engaged in more regular sexual activity scored higher on tests that measured their verbal fluency and visuospatial ability.
The study, published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, involved 73 people aged between 50 and 83.
Participants answered the questionnaire on how often (never, monthly or weekly), on average, they had engaged in sexual activity over the past 12 months and about their general health and lifestyle.
The 28 men and 45 women took part in a standardized test, which is used to measure different patterns of brain function in older adults, focusing on attention, memory, fluency, language and visuospatial ability.
This included verbal fluency tests in which participants had 60 seconds to name as many animals as possible, and say as many words beginning with F — tests which reflect higher cognitive abilities. Also included was copying a complex design and drawing a clock face from memory to determine their visuospatial ability.
It was these two sets of tests where participants who engaged in weekly sexual activity scored the highest, with the verbal fluency tests showing the strongest effect.
The results suggested that frequency of sexual activity was not linked to attention, memory or language. In these tests, the participants performed just as well regardless of whether they reported weekly, monthly or no sexual activity.
This study expanded on previous research from 2016, which found that older adults who were sexually active scored higher on cognitive tests than those who were not sexually active.
Lead researcher Dr. Hayley Wright, from Coventry University’s Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement say that they can only speculate whether this is driven by social or physical elements and that further research could look at how biological elements, such as dopamine and oxytocin, could influence the relationship between sexual activity and brain function to give a fuller explanation of their findings.