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Regular Sex Makes Older People Smarter

Among my subscribed e-mail newsletters was the above headline. I found it irresistible – so did you. Improving cognition is what got our attention, right???

I am going to share a bit of the article, but you will have to go to Brain Health Breakthroughs for the whole thing.

As I was reading, I constantly questioned their perspective that increased sexual activity was the cause of improved brain function rather than the possibility their theory reversed cause and effect. At the end, my newsletter author brought that same point up.

Regular Sex Makes Older People Smarter

Considering it’s a universal human activity, it’s surprising how little research has been conducted on the relationship between sex and the brain.

To fill the void, several researchers from the UK decided to look into the association, if indeed there is one. They discovered that sexually active older adults performed better on cognitive tests, but the reasons for this were unknown.

This prompted them to carry out a follow-up study to see if they could learn more.

The researchers concluded that “older men and women who engage in regular SA [sexual activity] have better cognitive functioning than those who do not engage in SA, or do so infrequently…the findings have important implications for the maintenance of intimate relationships in later life.”

Why Does This Happen?

As to why the link between sex and brain function exists, the authors were not much wiser than after their original study, but they believe there may be a cause and effect relationship that involves the secretion of the brain hormones dopamine and oxytocin.

Lead author Dr. Hayley Wright commented, “We can only speculate whether this [link] is driven by social or physical elements – but an area we would like to research further is the biological mechanisms that may influence this.

“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.”

My take is that this is one, very small study and far from conclusive on the relationship, if there is one. It seems possible to me that the causation runs in the opposite direction – cognitively bright people are more interested in everything – and there’s plenty of evidence that this contributes to a long life and healthy cognition.

In addition, future research should look at sexual relations in the broader context of ALL social relations, not just sexual relations, as connections with other people are a well-known factor in preserving cognitive ability.