A recent study published by the Public Library of Science’s PLOS One scientific journal suggests that for Japanese men over 40, maintaining sexual interest might be linked to a longer life, although no such connection was observed in women.
Sexuality has often been tied to psychological health, especially as people age. Sexual satisfaction and activity have long been considered beneficial for mental well-being, particularly in older populations. However, while the potential psychological benefits have been widely discussed, few studies have delved into the potential link between sexual interest and overall longevity.
Given the recognized benefits of sexual activity to psychological health in the elderly, the study was completed to discern if an individual’s level of sexual interest could provide clues to their longevity.
The study observed a sizable group of Japanese individuals living in the Yamagata Prefecture from the years 2009 to 2015. Comprising of 8,558 males and 12,411 females aged forty years or older, all 20,969 participants were asked about their sexual interests and other lifestyle habits through a self-report questionnaire. Additionally, all participants participated in an annual health check. The overall study took into account factors such as smoking, drinking habits, laughter frequency, education, and others. During the follow-up period, averaging 7.1 years, the health outcomes of these participants, including deaths, were tracked.
Questions in the study were all provided as straightforward as possible, with questions such as “How often do you laugh out loud?” provided with four options of frequency (i.e. almost every day, one to five times a week, one to three times a month, one time a month or less), and “Currently, do you have any interest in people of the opposite sex?” provided with two options (i.e. yes or no).
During the course of the study, 503 subjects died — 67 from cardiovascular disease and 162 from cancer. Independent associations between lack of sexual interest and all-cause deaths, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer mortality were analyzed using the Cox-proportional hazards analysis method, a statistical technique used to model the relationship between data and one or more factors while accounting for the effects of other possible factors. In addition, comparison of reported levels of sexual interest, alcohol usage, smoking, and psychological distress were compared using the Kaplan-Meier method, a statistical procedure used to estimate the survival function of a population based on incomplete or censored data.
Of the male participants, 8.3% reported a lack of sexual interest. Interestingly, these men showed a significantly higher rate of all-cause mortality when compared to their counterparts who maintained sexual interest. They also had higher cancer mortality, and these associations remained significant even after adjusting for various factors like age, smoking, drinking, and psychological distress.
On the other hand, for the women in the study, a lack of sexual interest did not appear to have any notable connection to mortality rates. In other words, while men who maintained sexual interest seemed to live longer, women’s longevity did not seem tied to their sexual interest in the same way. Men who maintained a keen interest in the opposite sex seemed more likely to have longer lives, even when considering various lifestyle and health factors.
While the results are fascinating, certain caveats must be taken into account. The study, though large, was conducted within a specific cultural context, which may not necessarily translate globally. Sexual interest was also gauged based on heterosexual orientation, potentially overlooking the experiences of those with non-heterosexual attractions. In addition, while the study accounted for many factors, certain potential influencers, such as specific medical conditions or treatments affecting sexual function and longevity, were not captured in the baseline survey.
The study, “Association between lack of sexual interest and all-cause mortality in a Japanese general population: The Yamagata prospective observational study“, was authored by a team of researchers based in Yamagata. This team consists of Kaori Sukarada and Takafumi Saito of the Yamagata University Graduate School of Nursing, Tsuneo Konta of the Yamagata University Graduate School of Medical Science, Narumi Murakami and Naoko Kosugi of the Yamagata University Hospital, and Masafumi Watanabe, Kenichi Ishizawa, Yoshiyuki Ueno, and Takamasa Kayama of the Yamagata University School of Medicine.