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Men's interest in sex is linked to the risk of early death, according to a Japanese study: ScienceAlert

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Lack of sexual interest may indicate an increased risk of premature death among men living in Japan, according to a newly published study.

The exact relationship between mortality and libido is something researchers will need to sort out, though researchers speculate that a reduced sex drive could be a more visible sign of subtle underlying health issues.

The data came from 20,969 people (8,558 men and 12,411 women) age 40 and older who had annual health checkups over a six-year period in Yamagata Prefecture, a mountainous region of Japan famous for its hot springs, temples and natural beauty. .

A team of researchers at Yamagata University analyzed participants’ levels of sexual interest as self-reported in an initial questionnaire and in a follow-up survey conducted years later. Of the original 20,969 individuals, 503 had died in that time.

The researchers found that cancer mortality and all-cause mortality were significantly higher for men who reported a lack of sexual interest.

This association held even when they controlled for factors such as age, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption, BMI, education, marital status, frequency of laughter and psychological distress.

“Although sexual activity and sexual satisfaction are considered beneficial for psychological health and well-being in older groups, the association between sexual interest and longevity has not been investigated,” the researchers write.

“This study is the first to prospectively examine the associations between sexual interest and all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular and cancer mortality in a community-based population.”

The study found that women were more likely to report a lack of sexual interest than men – 16% of female participants in its sample did so, compared with 8% of male volunteers – but found no significant association. between lower libido and mortality. in women as it was in men.

Being a purely observational study, there is no way to conclude which – if one of the factors – is the cause and which is the effect.

It is possible that the lack of sexual interest among men is linked to “unhealthy lifestyles”, suggest the scientists.

“Moreover, if we assume that sexual interest is related to positive psychological factors,” they write, “lack of interest may affect a range of inflammatory, neuroendocrine, and immune responses.”

More research will be needed to understand exactly what’s going on, but just revealing a potential connection like this is an important step forward, the researchers add.

There are also some important caveats to note in the study. A person’s lack of sexual interest was determined from a single question in the initial questionnaire: “Do you currently have any interest in people of the opposite sex?”

Even if everyone understands what this question is asking, it excludes those who are attracted to someone of the same sex, as the researchers acknowledge.

“Anyone who answered ‘no’ was defined as having no sexual interest. Consequently, same-sex sexual interest would be considered ‘lack of sexual interest’ in this study,” they write.

The researchers estimate that their sample may have included around 200 LGBTQ participants, and given the narrow question used in this study, there is reason to doubt at least some of this data. The study authors urge that future research take this into account.

The new study also did not adjust for certain “clinically relevant elements known to affect sexual function and longevity,” the authors write, such as neurological conditions or medications participants were taking, as this was not part of the initial research.

However, maintaining sexual interest can have positive effects on longevity. Despite the study’s limitations, the researchers argue for awareness of sexual interest as a public health factor among older populations in Japan.

“The Canadian government, through public health promotion materials, has begun to endorse sexual activity as an element of an ‘aging well’ agenda. In Japan, there is more prejudice about sex among seniors than in the western world” , wrote the study authors. Write.

“We hope that our findings will help advance public health through advocacy for sexuality in Japan.”

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.