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Older Women + Good Sex = Health. Older Men May Not Be So Lucky.

Photo credit for above: absfreepic.com

Cathy Hiu-Liu poses outside of Berkey Hall on Friday August 8, 2008. Hiu-Liu is publishing a paper detailing the health of married v. never-married people.

Professor Cathy Hiu-Liu, Michigan State University

Michigan State University (MSU) researchers have reported that when older women have good sex they may lower their risk of hypertension.

Older men aren’t so lucky. Research@MSU says that, “Having sex frequently – and enjoying it – puts older men at higher risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.”

These findings challenge the widely held assumption that sex brings uniform health benefits to everyone,” said Cathy Hui Liu. The MSU associate professor of sociology is the study’s research leader and used her STEM-related background to get the results.

Liu has a BA and an MA in Economics from Nankai University, China, and an MS in Statistics, and a PhD in Sociology and Demography from the University of Texas at Austin. Her co-authors, below, were Linda Waite, professor at the University of Chicago, Shannon Shen, an MSU graduate and Donna Wang, professor of medicine at MSU (no photo).

Liu’s research team analyzed survey data from 2,204 people in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. In 2005-2006, the study participants were between 57-85 when the first data was collected. Five years later, data was collected again.

The study reports “Older men who had sex once a week or more were much more likely to experience cardiovascular events five years later than men who were sexually inactive.”

The risk factors were “hypertension, rapid heart rate, elevated C-reactive protein and general cardiovascular events: heart attack, heart failure and stroke.”

The benefits of good sex for women

Beyond closer emotional connection, “Female participants who found sex to be extremely pleasurable or satisfying had lower risk of hypertension five years later than female participants who did not feel so,” says Liu.

What Cialis and Viagra’s makers won’t like

Liu says, “Although scientific evidence is still rare, it is likely that such sexual medication or supplements have negative effects on older men’s cardiovascular health.”

Study co-authors


Professor Linda Waite, University of Chicago

Linda Waite is the Senior Fellow and Director of the Aging Action Research Center on Aging at the University of Chicago. Waite has a PhD from the University of Michigan, an MA from the University of Michigan, and a BA from Michigan State University

9.12.sex.Shen_Shannon_SOC_grad-student_2016-300x284Shannon Shen is in her fourth year of the Sociology PHD program at MSU with a focus on family, health and sexuality.

Donna Wang is a professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Nanomedicine and Molecular Intervention. She is a graduate of the Sun Yat-Sen University School of Medical Sciences, Guangzhou, China.

The federally-funded research was “the first large-scale study of how sex affects heart health in later life. The report, “Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk among Older Men and Women,” is published online in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Read an abstract here.

The research was partially funded by the following National Institutes of Health divisions: the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

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