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We’ve known for a long time that sex has numerous benefits to our physical and mental health, but a new study has just given us another reason to get intimate. Researchers from Oxford and Coventry Universities have found a link between frequent sex and increased brain power in older people.

They asked 73 participants (28 men and 45 women) between the ages of 50 and 83 about their sexual habits, then gave them verbal, visual and spatial perception tests to assess their cognitive abilities.

It was discovered that the 37 who reported having sex at least once a week performed better on the tests than the 26 who reported having sex on a monthly basis and the 10 who said they no longer did the deed.

Despite the “weekly” respondents having an increase in brain power, there were no differences between the participants in terms of memory, language and attentiveness.

“Every time we do another piece of research we are getting a little bit closer to understanding why this association exists at all, what the underlying mechanisms are, and whether there is a ‘cause and effect’ relationship between sexual activity and cognitive function in older people,” explained lead researcher Hayley Wright of Coventry University.

But it’s not only UK researchers who are keen to destigmatise sex in older people. The University of New South Wales has just completed the Sex, Age & Me study of sex and relationships in people over 60 – the most comprehensive study of its kind in Australia to date.

Quashing the outdated belief that older people aren’t interested in sex, 72 per cent of participants reported having sex in the last year – and even more said they hoped to have more in the future.

“The biggest thing to come out of this research is that older Australians are interested in sex, and sex is important to a lot of people,” said UNSW School of Social Sciences lecturer Bianca Fileborn. “Maybe not in the same way as when they were younger, but for the majority of people sex is important and it’s something they want to be able to continue to do and express, without being judged.”

Tell us in the comments below, what do you think can be done to reduce the stigma around sex and intimacy in later life?

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