As people get older their memory seems to let them down more often, causes them embarrassment and makes them feel that perhaps they are on the verge of developing the dreaded disease, Alzheimer’s. Fear not, for academics claim having a healthy sex life past 50 may help you remember things.
Their findings – from a study of more than 6,000 English respondents – are believed to be connected to their ‘pleasure hormones’, oxytocin. It is released during kissing and lovemaking and is important for activating brain cells in the hippocampus – the memory centre of the brain. Sleeping with, or cuddling someone you are close to, can also reduce stress hormones that prevent the creation of cells important to the retention of memory.
Dr Mark Allen, who carried out the research at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, said : ‘The findings that more frequent sexual activity was associated with better memory performance complements previous research that found sexually active, older adults perform better on cognitive tasks.’
The study, reported in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, uses data from the Health Survey for England in 2012 and 2014. It did not find that sex prevented the decline of memory power during those two years, but this could be due to the short time-period concerned. However, the results did show that the middle-aged who have regular sex did better in a snapshot memory test, in which they were told ten words to remember.
The 6,016 adults were given a recording of the words, asked to record them once and then again after an unrelated set of tests. Those who did better also scored more highly in a questionnaire about their sex lives. This asked if they had experienced any sexual activity in the past year, how many times they had had sex in the past month and how frequently they engaged in kissing, petting and fondling. Those who said they felt emotionally close to their partners during sexual activity were also more likely to do well in the memory test: remembering ten common words like ‘paper’, ‘child’ and ‘flag’ may seem basic. Previous research has found the test relates to how well our memory works while performing everyday tasks. A better score could even mean better performance in things such as remembering shopping lists or making important financial decisions.
The study found sex appeared more important for memory in adults over 64 year’s old, which backs up the theory that deterioration in the brain begins at 60. It also supported experimental research which found sexual activity in male rats improved their ability to recognize things. Dr Allen wrote that finding sex did not fully slow down memory loss was a little surprising, but he added this was probably due to the two-year time-frame concerned in the study, and that more research was needed.
I rejoice to know that sexual activity (in general) during middle-age protects memory, and will encourage both sexes to make life more tolerable as energy begins to show signs of subsiding. So get cracking!