The Sexual Gender Gap

A new study published in the British Medical Journal reveals some interesting dynamics at work in the sex lives of older men and women regarding sex. Thanks to erection-enhancing medications, interest in sex among middle-aged and older men in the United States has increased since 2000; more than 14% of men now report using such medications. Women, however, aren’t nearly as interested in sex, according to the new study.

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A new study published in the British Medical Journal reveals some interesting dynamics at work in the sex lives of older men and women regarding sex. Thanks to erection-enhancing medications, interest in sex among middle-aged and older men in the United States has increased since 2000; more than 14% of men now report using such medications. Women, however, aren’t nearly as interested in sex, according to the new study.


Among men aged 57-64 with partners, 77% were interested in sex, while only 36% of similar-aged women with partners said they were interested in sex. The difference is even starker for men and women without partners. About 68% of older men without partners said they were interested in sex, but only 12% of the women without partners were interested in sex. In addition, of all women (partnered or not) who said they were sexually active, fully half said the quality of their sex life was poor.


The study does not speculate about the implications of these findings, beyond suggesting that more research is needed to evaluate their potential impact. But, clearly, there is a mismatch between the desires and expectations of middle-age and older men and similarly-aged women. One thing that may be happening is that the older men are having sex with younger women – not a new trend, of course, but one that may be increasing. The study found that among the 75-85-year-old group, almost 4 out of 10 males were sexually active compared to less than 2 out of 10 women of the same age group. 


One encouraging finding of the new study had to do with the positive effects of health on sexual activity. Men and women in good health reported having more frequent and better-quality sex than similarly-aged men and women in poor health. Good health also translates into a longer “sexual life expectancy,” which is how many more years of sexual activity you can expect at any given age.nFor example, the study found that a 50 year-old man in very good or excellent health can expect to remain sexually active for another 20 years. (That’s an average, of course…there are plenty of men older than 70 having sex!)


In general men tend to have a longer sexual life expectancy than women at any given age, though this difference narrows with advancing age. Also, men’s sexual activity tends to be more vulnerable to the impacts of poor health than women.  At age 55, the sexual life expectancy is 15 years for men and 10.6 years for women, though men lose more years of sexually active life as a result of poor health than women.

The take-home message, for either gender, is: if you enjoy sex and want to maintain a good sex life, the best thing you can do is stay in shape, eat right, don’t smoke, keep your body and mind as healthy as possible.

Blog written by Harry Fisch, MD
Dr. Fisch is the director of the Male Reproductive Center in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist and microsurgeon...