A new study conducted by researchers at Yamagata University in Japan suggests that middle-aged and older men who lack sexual interest in women may have an increased risk of early death.
The study, published in the journal PLOS One, analyzed the medical histories and stress levels of 20,969 people — 8,558 men and 12,411 women — aged 40 or older in the mountainous region of Yamagata prefecture over the span of nine years.
The subjects’ sexual interest levels were determined via a self-report questionnaire that asked: “Currently, do you have any interest in people of the opposite sex?”
The study noted that participants who expressed sexual interest in people of the same sex were defined as “lacking sexual interest.”
They then conducted a follow-up survey after nine years, at which time 503 of the 20,969 subjects had died. The researchers controlled for factors such as age, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption, BMI, education, marital status, frequency of laughter and psychological distress.
Over the nine-year period, 9.6% of the men who the researchers deemed to have had no sexual interest died compared to just 5.6% among those who were still interested in sexual activity.
Their findings indicated that all-cause mortality and cancer mortality were significantly higher in men who reported a lack of sexual interest. Interestingly, the study did not find a significant association between lower libido and mortality in women as it had in men.
The scientists posit that hidden health issues may have also been responsible for the subjects’ lower sex drives.
According to the researchers, those who lacked sexual interest significantly had higher rates of being past smokers and drinkers, were psychologically distressed, laughed less and had lower educational attainment.
The researchers also acknowledged that their study was limited by the single question that excluded those attracted to the same sex. Additionally, the study did not adjust for certain “medically relevant elements known to affect sexual function and longevity.”
Despite such limitations, Dr. Kaori Sakurada, the study’s lead researcher, said she would still encourage men in Japan to be more sociable and have an interest in the opposite sex.
“Taking interest in the people around you, including the opposite sex, and interacting with them could help you remain mentally sound and have something to live for,” Sakurada was quoted as saying. “Communicating with those of the opposite sex, however old you are, could help you live longer.”