American Sociological Association

Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk among Older Men and Women

Working from a social relationship and life course perspective, we provide generalizable population-based evidence on partnered sexuality linked to cardiovascular risk in later life using national longitudinal data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP) (N = 2,204). We consider characteristics of partnered sexuality of older men and women, particularly sexual activity and sexual quality, as they affect cardiovascular risk. Cardiovascular risk is defined as hypertension, rapid heart rate, elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), and general cardiovascular events. We find that older men are more likely to report being sexually active, having sex more often, and more enjoyably than are older women. Results from cross-lagged models suggest that high frequency of sex is positively related to later risk of cardiovascular events for men but not women, whereas good sexual quality seems to protect women but not men from cardiovascular risk in later life. We find no evidence that poor cardiovascular health interferes with later sexuality for either gender.

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Authors

Hui Liu, Linda J. Waite, Shannon Shen, and Donna H. Wang

Volume

57

Issue

3

Starting Page

276

Ending Page

296