A new study has found that the majority of adults over 50 are sexually active on a regular basis, but women are less active than men.

The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing at Trinity College Dublin delved into the little studied and infrequently discussed sexual lives of older adults in Ireland to provide some interesting stats this Valentine’s Day.

The survey of more than 8,000 adults in Ireland over 50 showed that sexual activity is the norm for 59% of them. 69% of the group are sexually active on a weekly or monthly basis.

One third (33%) of those sexually active adults were sexually active once or twice a week and more than one third (36%) were sexually active once or twice a month.

Men reported more sexual activity than women at all ages, the survey found. The decline in women’s sexual activity with age was more rapid than that of men. The probable cause of this was that women are more likely than men to be widowed at older ages.

The researchers found that being sexually active has positive implications for a person’s health and their perception of ageing.

The study also paints a picture of strong relationships amongst Ireland’s older adults with a large majority of people reporting that they had a very close relationship with their spouse or partner and living with a spouse or partner being a key determinant in whether someone is sexually active.

A small proportion (9%) of currently unmarried or non-cohabiting respondents report having a romantic or intimate partner. Of those with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the large majority are sexually active (88%).

Lead author of the report Joanna Orr, TILDA researcher said: “Our research shows that sexual activity is an important part of life for many of those aged 50 and over in Ireland, including significant proportions of those in their 60s, 70s and beyond. Continued research into this area is not only important for understanding the links between sex and health and happiness, but also to dispel the myth that sexual activity is incompatible with advancing age.

“It is important that health and social care professionals working with older populations are capable of respecting this aspect of individuals’ lives, and take this into consideration when giving advice and making decisions regarding their wellbeing.”