How Much is Enough? Potential Benefits of an Active Sex Life on Working Memory

Hayley Wright, Rebecca Jenks, Nele Demeyere

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Research in the area of sex and cognition in later life is limited. Previous research (Wright & Jenks, 2016) established a significant association between sexual activity and cognitive function in a large nationally representative cohort. One limitation of this study was the use of two broad measures of cognitive function, where performance on both could be underpinned by working memory. The aims of the current study were twofold: i) to explore whether sexual activity is associated with performance on a wider range of cognitive tests, and ii) to assess the role of frequency of sexual activity in this association. Seventy-three healthy volunteers (50-84 years) completed a health and wellbeing questionnaire, and two cognitive assessments (ACE-III, and a novel tablet-based assessment). Analyses showed significant linear trends for increasing frequency of sexual activity (i.e. never, monthly, weekly) and increasing performance on tests of; verbal fluency (p=0.013), encoding and delayed recall (p=0.036 and p=0.021 respectively), immediate word recall (p=0.015) and clock-drawing ability (p=0.027). Discussions focus on the potential underlying biological mechanisms linking sexual activity and memory, as well as limitations posed by ceiling effects in cognitive tests. It is concluded that sexual activity is associated with working memory specifically, and that there appears to be a dose-response relationship in the findings. Results have implications for dating and maintaining intimate relationships in later life, as well as the provision of sexual health screening and counselling, to potentially benefit cognitive function and general wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventThe Gerontological Society of America's 69th Annual Scientific Meeting - New Orleans Marriott and Sheraton New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Duration: 16 Nov 201620 Nov 2016 (Link to conference cite)


ConferenceThe Gerontological Society of America's 69th Annual Scientific Meeting
Abbreviated titleGSA 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans, Louisiana
Internet address


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