More sexual activity among over-75s

An elderly couple cuddling in bed.
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In 2022, 27 percent of people aged 75 and over reported they were sexually active. This was still 16 percent in 2014. Seven in ten people aged 16 years and over indicated they had had sex in the past twelve months, which is a lower share than in 2014. The decline in sexual activity is most pronounced among young people aged 16 to 24 years. Women showed more decline in sexual activity after the age of 45 than their male peers. These are the results of the latest National Health Survey/Lifestyle Monitor, conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the Netherlands Centre on Sexuality Rutgers, and Soa Aids Nederland.

People aged 16 and over were asked the question whether they had had any sexual activity in the past twelve months. In 2022, the reply was ‘yes’ among 70 percent of the respondents. This means the share engaging in sexual activity was lower than in 2014 (74 percent), when this question was asked for the first time. The decline is mainly visible among young people (16 to 24 years): in 2014 the sexually active share in this group was still 63 percent, but this was down to 56 percent in 2022. On the other hand, the sexually active share increased among people aged 75 and over.

Sexually active in the past 12 months
Leeftijd2022 (% of respondents who answered the question)2014 (% of respondents who answered the question)
Total (16 yrs and over)69.774.5
16 to 24 yrs55.563.1
25 to 34 yrs86.590.1
35 to 44 yrs87.991.8
45 to 54 yrs83.886.1
55 to 64 yrs70.374.9
65 to 74 yrs52.655.8
75 yrs and over26.716.4

Less sexually active after 55

The extent to which people are sexually active is linked, among other things, with age. In the group 16 to 24-year-olds, 56 percent are sexually active. People aged between 25 and 45 had the highest share at 87 percent. The share of people who are sexually active declines as of age 55; this decline was lowest among the over-75s at 27 percent.

Older men more often sexually active than older women

Men are slightly more likely to be sexually active than women, those aged 55 and over in particular. This gap increases with age and is widest among the over-75s: of the men aged 75 and over, 37 percent said they had been sexually active in the past twelve months, against 18 percent of their female peers. A contributing factor here is that older women are more likely to be single compared to older men. This is related to age differences in relationships (in which the man is often slightly older). In addition, a higher female life expectancy means that relatively more women than men reach a more advanced age.

Sexually active in the past 12 months, by age, 2022
LeeftijdMen (% of respondents who answered the question)Women (% of respondents who answered the question)
Total (16 yrs and over)72.467
16 to 24 yrs53.957.2
25 to 34 yrs85.687.5
35 to 44 yrs88.287.6
45 to 54 yrs85.182.6
55 to 64 yrs76.164.1
65 to 74 yrs58.846.2
75 yrs and over36.718

Cohabitating partners more often sexually active

People living with a partner are generally more active than those living without a partner. This applies to all age groups. The group living without a partner includes both single persons and parents in single-parent families. There is no data on whether these people are in a relationship. The sexually active share among single over-75s in particular is significantly lower at 8 percent than the share among people in the same age group who live with a partner (41 percent). This is related to the low share of elderly people (women in particular) who are sexually active. A relatively high share of over-75s live without a partner, especially among women over 75, over half of whom live in a single-person household. In the age group 16 to 34 years living without a partner, the sexually active share was 74 percent. This was 98 percent among those living with a partner.

Sexually active in the past 12 months, 2022
LeeftijdSingle or single parent (% of respondents who answered the question)Cohabiting/married (% of respondents who answered the question)
Total (16 yrs and over)48.683.3
16 to 34 yrs73.798.2
35 to 44 yrs68.295
45 to 54 yrs57.192.2
55 to 64 yrs39.681
65 to 74 yrs23.964.9
75 yrs and over7.541.1

A quarter of over-75s preferred not to say

In the survey, participants did not have to answer the question about their sexual activity. The option not to give an answer was offered actively. Twelve percent of the participants chose not to answer this question. Young people are less likely to do so than elderly people. Among the 16 to 44-year-olds, less than 10 percent preferred not to answer questions on this topic. That share increased progressively to 24 percent among the over-75s. Women aged 45 and over were more likely to say they did not want to answer the question about sexual activity than their male peers.