11/30/2011 05:48 pm ET

Sex Is The Key To A Happy Marriage In Old Age, Study Finds

By Cynthia Graber
(Click here for the original article and podcast)

The key to a happy marriage and a happy life in retirement? According to a recent study, one answer is sex.

Researchers mined a national data set called the 2004 General Social Surveys. They analyzed the responses of 238 married seniors, 65 and older, about happiness and sex. They did not examine the responses of non-married seniors, a growing sexually active group.

Some of the married individuals reported no sex at all in the previous year. For those, only 40 percent were very happy with life in general. Almost 60 percent were very happy in their marriage. But for the seniors who had sex more than once a month, the numbers jumped. Sixty percent were very happy with life, and 80 percent were very happy in their marriage.

The researchers say the correlation held even when accounting for other factors that might keep seniors smiling, such as good health and financial stability. The findings were presented at the Gerontological Society of America’s annual meeting in Boston.

The researchers say the information could help showcase the need for sexual health interventions for older Americans. So they can stay active – and active – throughout the golden years.