Men’s interest in sex linked to risk of early death, Japanese study finds: ScienceAlertThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
A lack of sexual interest may indicate an increased risk of early death among men living in Japan, according to a newly published study.
The exact link between mortality and libido is something researchers will have to tease apart, though researchers speculate that reduced sex drive may be a more visible sign of subtle health problems.
The data came from 20,969 people (8,558 men and 12,411 women) aged 40 or older who had annual health examinations over six years in Yamagata Prefecture, a mountainous region of Japan known for its hot springs, temples and natural beauty.
A team of researchers from Yamagata University looked at the subjects’ levels sexual interest as reported in an initial questionnaire and in a follow-up survey conducted years later. Of the original 20,969 subjects, 503 died during this time.
The researchers found crab mortality and all-cause mortality were significantly higher in men who reported a lack of sexual interest.
This relationship held even when they controlled for factors such as age, hypertension, diabetessmoking, alcohol consumption, BMI, education, marital status, frequency of laughter and psychological stress.
“Although sexual activity and sexual satisfaction are considered beneficial for psychological health and well-being in older age groups, the relationship between sexual interest and longevity has not been explored,” the researchers write.
“This study is the first to prospectively examine the associations between sexual interest and all-cause mortality, as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality in a community-based population.”
The study found that women were more likely than men to report a lack of sexual interest — 16 percent of female participants in their sample did so, compared to 8 percent of male volunteers — but found no significant relationship between lower libido and mortality in women as in men.
Since the study is purely observational, there is no way to conclude which factor is the cause and which is the effect.
A lack of sexual interest among men may be linked to an “unhealthy lifestyle”, scientists suggest.
“Furthermore, if we assume that sexual interest is associated with positive psychological factors,” they write“absence of interest can affect a number of inflammatory, neuroendocrine and immune responses.”
More research will be needed to understand exactly what’s going on, but just uncovering a potential link like this is an important step, the researchers add.
There are also some important caveats to note in the study. A person’s lack of sexual interest was determined by one question on the initial baseline questionnaire: “Do you currently have any interest in people of the opposite sex?”
Even if everyone understands what this question is asking, it excludes those who are attracted to someone of the same sex, as the researchers acknowledge.
“Any person who answered ‘no’ was defined as lacking sexual interest. Accordingly, sexual interest in someone of the same gender will be considered ‘lack of sexual interest’ in this study,” they write.
The researchers estimate that their sample may include approximately 200 LGBTQ participants, and due to the narrow question used in this study, there is reason to doubt at least some of this data. The study authors urge future research to take this into account.
The new study also did not adjust for certain “medically relevant items known to affect sexual function and longevity,” the authors wrote, such as neurological conditions or medications the subjects were taking, because that was not part of the main study.
Regardless, maintaining sexual interest just might have a positive effect on longevity. Despite the study’s limitations, the researchers argue in favor of increasing awareness of sexual interest as a public health factor among Japan’s older population.
“The Canadian government, through public health promotion materials, has begun to endorse sexual activity as one element of the ‘aging well’ agenda. In Japan, there is more prejudice about sex among the elderly than in the Western world,” the authors of the study write.
“We hope our findings will help promote public health through sexuality advocacy in Japan.”
The study was published in the journal PLoS One.
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