Sex May Be the Key to Happiness for Older Couples Struggling with Illness

C. Price

Written by: C. Price

C. Price

C. Price is part of's content team. She writes advice articles, how-to guides, and studies — all relating to dating, relationships, love, sex, and more.

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

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Marriages, particularly longer marriages, are often tested by illnesses, but does having a more regular sex life actually help protect a marriage in times of trouble?

New research from the University of Chicago is stressing the importance of a healthy sex life as a key ingredient to helping such couples maintain matrimonial harmony.

According to the study, which was published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, sex assists in coping with issues like illness and helps couples to remain connected.

Previous studies have long shown reduced levels of satisfaction in marriages where couples are experiencing physical illnesses associated with age.

Lead study author Adena Galinsky believes sex may be important simply “to protect” the quality of a marriage.

Galinsky and her colleagues recruited 732 couples for their research. More than 90 percent of them were married. Most were white, between the ages of 65 and 74 year old and had been together for more than four decades.

“Sex helps couples to

remain connected.”

Along with surveys, the research team attempted to evaluate the couples by having them identify certain concepts of marriage as either positive or negative. These included ideas like criticism from a partner or “emotional satisfaction” within a relationship.

The wives were found to typically offer fewer positive responses than their husbands. Higher negative levels were also seen among the nearly 10 percent of participants who were black.

The responses were used to better understand the nuance between the couples and the differences separating individual partners.

The study suggests a lack of sex in a marriage does not necessarily mean a lower level of quality in a relationship.

The authors also noted that better physical health among the couples was a predictor of higher levels of quality in the marriage.

“I hope our study inspires research investigating what factors enable some couples struggling with poor health to find the energy and creativity to stay sexually engaged,” Galinsky said.


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