The study of 802 men conducted by Mori also revealed that a considerable number of older British men suffered prostate problems which made them irritable and anxious.
The survey showed a high level of fidelity in the sexually active men, with 79 per cent of 50 to 59-year-olds, having sex with one woman only in the previous year. Only 5 per cent claimed to have had sex with more than one woman.
Among the sexually active group, 45 per cent said they had experienced a sexual problem in the previous year, most commonly poor erection.
Dr Andrew Stanway, specialist in psycho-sexual medicine who helped to design the study, said he was amazed at the lack of sexual activity in such a large proportion of older men. Other surveys had suggested much higher levels of activity. 'In all, 31 per cent of men over the age of 50 said they were not having sex at all,' Dr Stanway said, including 23 per cent of the men with wives or partners.
Few men said that they tried anything other than penetrative sexual intercourse. Oral sex was the only other sexual practice performed by a significant number: 20 per cent.
More than half of the men, 56 per cent, said that they no longer masturbated and 9 per cent said they had never done so.
The data also showed that men found that sex became less rewarding with age. As well as measuring levels of sexual activity, the survey was designed to discover how many men had prostate problems - and to see if there was a link.
Given a list of symptoms, 45 per cent of the men said they suffered from one or more. The sufferers were likely to have less active sex lives, to be more anxious and feel negative.
The survey was conducted for Britannia Health Products which makes a preparation called ProstaBrit which claims to alleviate prostate symptoms.
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