As well, more 21st-century women said they were highly satisfied with their sex; fewer said they had low satisfaction; more said they experienced an orgasm during sex; and fewer said they had never had an orgasm.
Regarding the degree to which the respondents said they felt "very happy" about their relationship, the three-decade trend also moved in a similarly positive direction for both genders: rising from 40 percent to 57 percent among men, and from 35 percent to 52 percent among women.
Beckman and his colleagues speculated that, in part, the findings might simply reflect the degree to which Western societies have become more comfortable in dealing with sexual matters frankly and openly -- perhaps leading to a greater willingness to honestly report sexual encounters.
"(And) maybe it has become more permissible to leave an unhappy marriage today," suggested Beckman. "And even for widows [and] widowers to establish new relations."
Whatever the explanation, S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health and senior research scientist at the Center on Aging at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), said the findings closely mirror the results of similar research conducted at UIC and elsewhere.
"Probably the addressing of physiological problems with the development of medications like Viagra explain some -- but not all -- of the upward sexual activity trend," he said. "But the most important point being made here is that when it comes to sex, clearly it doesn't matter what age you are. At least most men and many women still have a desire to have it as they age."
For more on seniors and sex, visit the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
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