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New Study: Men Have Shorter Lives, But More and Better Sex

By L.K. Regan

It is well known that life expectancy for women is slightly higher than for men. But a new study conducted at the University of Chicago finds that, though men die sooner, they are sexually active for longer. For many men, this may very well be a fair trade.

The study, published in the March 11, 2010 online edition of the British Medical Journal, looked at two large national American surveys, one observing 3,000 adults aged 25 to 74, the other following an additional 3,000 adults aged 57 to 85. Subjects provided their general health level, as well as information about their relationship status and the frequency and quality of their sex life.

The men in the study were more likely to be sexually active and enjoying that sex than the women, particularly in the 75 to 85 year-old bracket. For this oldest category, 72 percent of the men had partners, versus 40 percent of the women, and only half of those women reported that their sex lives were "good." Overall, among male subjects aged 57 to 85 who did not have a partner, 57 percent reported an interest in sex, as opposed to only 11 percent of women in the same category. Said lead author Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago,"Interest in sex, participation in sex and even the quality of sexual activity were higher for men than women, and this gender gap widened with age."

We know there is not one guy reading this who is surprised by this finding. But here's the rub (so to speak): the researchers found in the results a way to quantify a man's sexual life expectancy along with his traditional life expectancy. For men, the number of years of remaining sexual life expectancy will be ten years less than their total life expectancy. For women, it's twenty. If a man can expect to live a little short of 75 years, then subtract your age from 65 and you will know how many more years of fun you can reasonably expect to have.

In an editorial accompanying the article, Professor Patricia Goodson of Texas University, while praising the study overall for "[bearing] good news in the form of hope," says that one substantial limitation of its findings is that it does not attempt to directly quantify the experience of aging LGBT people. Such limitations, she says, "stand as dim reminders of the limitations inherent in applying science to the study of complex human realities, and the cultural values shaping the topics we choose to study."

It's entirely possible, therefore, that this effect is even stronger for gay men.