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Sex and Older Americans

Statistics on Sex and the Elderly


Updated May 21, 2014

Although Viagra and other drugs have been widely marketed to improve age-related sexual dysfunction, there has not been much research into the sex lives of older adults. For example, researchers traditionally have not known how often older people have sex, what types of sex they have and what health risks they are more likely to encounter. But a 2007 survey is shedding some light on this topic.

Sexual Activity in Older Adults

A representative sample of 3,005 U.S. adults ages 57 to 85 (men and women) found that sexual activity varied by age:
  • 73% of Americans aged 57 to 64 reported being sexual active
  • 53% of those aged 65 to 74 reported being sexual active
  • 26% of those aged 75 to 85 reported being sexual active
Women reported less sexual activity than men, perhaps because of the shorter life expectancies of men (meaning there are less men to have sex with in the older age groups).

Sexual Problems

Half of the people surveyed (both men and women) reported at least one sexual problem that bothered them. The problems reported, however, were different for men and women.

Women reported the following problems:

  • low sexual desire (43%)
  • vaginal lubrication difficulties (39%)
  • inability to climax (34%)
Men reported erectile dysfunction as the most common problem, with 37% reporting some level of difficulty achieving an erection. Of all the men in the study, 14% were taking some form of medication for sexual function.

Other Findings

For both men and women, people who rated their health as poor were less likely to be sexual active and more likely to report sexual problems. Overall, 38% of the men in the study and 22% of the women reported ever having discussed sex with their doctor after age 50.

More on Sex and Aging

Aging and Sex – For Women

Aging and Sex – For Men

Sex Tips for the Older Woman

Sex Tips for the Older Man


Stacy Tessler Lindau, M.D., M.A.P.P., L. Philip Schumm, M.A., Edward O. Laumann, Ph.D., Wendy Levinson, M.D., Colm A. O'Muircheartaigh, Ph.D., and Linda J. Waite, Ph.D. A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older Adults in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine. Volume 357:762-774. No 8. Aug. 23, 2007.

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