Friday 20 January 2017

Go forth and multiply - being good at maths adds up to more sex

John Bingham

Published 11/06/2016 | 02:30

'A study by researchers at the International Longevity Centre in Britain found a link between the ability to perform mathematical tasks in later life and the likelihood of having sex'. Stock photo: Getty
'A study by researchers at the International Longevity Centre in Britain found a link between the ability to perform mathematical tasks in later life and the likelihood of having sex'. Stock photo: Getty

It is the news that should give classroom geeks everywhere a rush of blood to the head - new research suggests that maths can boost people's sex lives, even into their 80s.

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A study by researchers at the International Longevity Centre in Britain found a link between the ability to perform mathematical tasks in later life and the likelihood of having sex.

Pensioners who can give the correct answer to a handful of moderately easy sums are twice as likely overall to be sexually active than those who struggled with the task.

The unexpected finding comes in a paper on the importance of financial literacy in old age, presented to a conference on pensions and retirement income.

Dr Cesira Urzi Brancati, a research fellow at ILC-UK, used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), which has been charting the lives of thousands of over-50s for the past 14 years to test links between cognitive ability and financial nous.

The ELSA study recorded not only details of participants' day-to-day lives and health but included occasional tests to assess their mental ability, including a sample of maths questions involving fractions, percentages and compound interest.

She observed a close link between how many questions people could answer and how much they had in savings.

For example those who could only manage one correct answer had average household savings of €12,000 but those who got four correct typically had pounds €76,000. They were also four times as likely to have made some provision for their own care.

But Brancati noticed that links between maths ability and benefits held true in other, perhaps more surprising, aspects of life.

Overall, 41pc of those who got one or none of the questions right had had sexual activity in the previous year compared with 79pc of those who answered four correctly.

When broken down by age, the same pattern could be seen. Almost half (49pc) of those in their 70s who got the questions right had been sexually active in the recent past compared with only 28pc of those who struggled with the questions.

Among those in their 80s, one in five of those who scored highly in the maths test was still sexually active compared with just under 10pc of those who struggled.

Dr Brancati said: "There are two possibilities: one is that the higher cognitive ability means that they are active and able to enjoy life or... maybe it is some innate characteristic: it could be a personality trait curiosity, openness to experience.

"I think we need to study a lot more to understand what is really at work."

Irish Independent

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