A recent survey found older gay and bisexual men in the U.K. had more sex partners and more sexual encounters than straight men of a similar age.
The study, entitled “The relationship between age and sex partner counts during the mpox outbreak in the UK, 2022” and from the University of East Anglia, was published in the journal PLOS ONE, and surveyed 5,164 British people during the recent outbreak of monkeypox, now referred to as mpox. The survey included 1,036 men who have sex with men (MSM) recruited via advertisements on Facebook and Instagram and another 831 people recruited via advertisements on the dating and hookup app Grindr.
“Most respondents had zero or one recent partner, all distributions were skewed,” the study observed. “There was a relatively linear declining relationship between age and partner counts for heterosexual partnership groups, but a peak in partner counts and concurrency for MSMs in middle age years (age 35–54), especially for MSM who seemed to be in a highly sexually active subgroup.”
“Before this study, many models about sexually transmitted diseases assumed that everyone over a certain age – say 40 or 65 – stopped being sexually active, or at least stopped having multiple partners. Or there might be an assumption that young people have the most sex,” Dr Julii Brainard of the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School and lead researcher on the study, said in a statement. “But the answer is more nuanced, and it partly depends on people’s sexuality.”
The survey sought to examine how sexual behavior changes over time. Survey participants were given three choices for sexual identity (gay, bisexual, or heterosexual), and asked the number of sexual partners in the previous three weeks and the previous three months.
The survey found MSM aged 70 and above had a comparably more active sex life, especially those who were recruited via Grindr.
While most people reported one or zero sex partners in the previous three weeks, 17 percent of MSM aged 70 and above reported having multiple partners within the survey period, and 25 percent of MSM recruited for the survey via social media reported having concurrent sexual partners, including 52 percent of those recruited via Grindr.
Dr. Brainard said the results challenged common assumptions about sexual activity, and require further examination about models of disease spread.
“It would be interesting to see if these findings were replicated if we targeted heterosexuals most likely to practice partner concurrency,” Brainard said. “Models of disease spread shouldn’t assume that young people are necessarily most at risk or that having multiple partners just stops happening at a strict age threshold.”