Men who lack interest in sex at risk of early death, says study

Researchers favor raising awareness about sexual interest in the elderly.
Ameya Paleja
Low libido and early death linked
Low libido and early death linked

Henadzi Pechan/iStock 

A study conducted by researchers from Yamagata University in Japan has suggested the lack of interest in sex as an indicator of risk of early death in men, Science Alert reported. The link between the two was drawn after studying a population of nearly 21,000 people over a period of six years.

Lack of interest in sex is something one can associate with worked-up executives in stressed work environments and surely not in the pristine mountainous regions of the Yamagata Prefecture in Japan, where this study was conducted. The area is known for its temples, hot springs, and natural beauty but the long-term study threw up some interesting information.

In recent years, sexual activity is being looked at as one of the components of healthy aging. The absence or lack of interest in sexual activity can be a sign of underlying health issues and could be used to investigate further.

Lack of interest in sex and cancer

The interest or lack thereof in sex was gauged through an initial questionnaire that subjects of the study self-reported initially and then in a follow-up survey conducted years later. A total of 20,969 people above the age of 40 were surveyed with the cohort consisting of 8,558 men and 12,411 women.

During the course of the study, 503 individuals passed away and the researchers found that cancer mortality and all-cause mortality were higher in men who had reported a lack of sexual interest. This association remained even when it was controlled for a wide range of factors ranging from age, known diseases such as hypertension, and lifestyle choices such as smoking and alcohol consumption.

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The study also found that women were more likely to report a lack of interest in sex with as many as 16 percent of women reporting it, as against eight percent of men. However, the researchers could not find any association between this and mortality in women.

More research needed

The researchers warn against drawing strong conclusions from the study while stating that while a potential connection has been found, it needs to be studied further.

Since this was an observational study, it is difficult to determine which of the factors is the cause and which is the effect. The researchers state that if sexual interest is assumed to relate to positive psychological factors, the absence of it "may affect a range of inflammatory, neuroendocrine, and immune responses."

There are also caveats in the study that the researchers point out to. For instance, the lack of sexual interest was determined using a single question that enquired if the subject had an interest in people of the opposite sex. A negative response from those who had a sexual interest in members of the same sex would also be construed as a lack of interest in the study.

Additionally, the impact of neurological conditions or of medications on sexual desire was not studied as part of the baseline survey, and the study was not adjusted for these factors.

The research findings were published in the journal PLOS One.

Abstract

Background

Sexual interest is essential for maintaining positive sexual relationships and sexual function, which have recently been recognized as important indicators of good health and quality of life. Here, we prospectively investigated associations between sexual interest and mortality in a community-based population.

Results

During follow-up (median: 7.1 years), 503 subjects died; 67 deaths were due to cardiovascular disease, and 162 were due to cancer. Kaplan-Meier analysis showed that all-cause mortality and cancer mortality were significantly elevated among men who lacked sexual interest (log-rank P<0.0001, P<0.05). Cox proportional hazards model analysis with adjustment for age, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, smoking, alcohol drinking status, BMI, education, marital status, frequency of laughter, and psychological distress showed that the risk of all-cause mortality was significantly higher among men who lacked sexual interest than men who had sexual interest (hazard ratio [HR] 1.69; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.17–2.44).

Conclusion

Lack of sexual interest is suggested to be a risk factor for all-cause mortality in Japanese males over 40 years old. This finding has implications for the importance of sexual interest in increasing longevity in this population.