Adrienne Jackson, an assistant professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and colleagues analyzed the 2004 General Social Surveys involving 238 married individuals age 65 years or older.
Jackson discovered that frequency of sexual activity was a significant predictor of both general and marital happiness even after factoring for age, gender, health status and satisfaction with finances.
Forty percent who reported no sexual activity in the last 12 months said they were very happy with life in general, while almost 60 percent who engaged in sexual activity more than once a month said they were very happy.
Similarly, 59 percent who reported no sexual activity in the previous 12 months said they were very happy with their marriage, but almost 80 percent who had sex more than once a month said they were very happy.
"This study will help open the lines of communication and spark interest in developing 'outside the box' approaches to dealing with resolvable issues that limit or prevent older adults from participating in sexual activity," Jackson said in a statement. "Highlighting the relationship between sex and happiness will help us in developing and organizing specific sexual health interventions for this growing segment of our population."
The findings were presented at The Gerontological Society of America's 64th annual scientific meeting in Boston.