We examine how giving versus receiving oral sex, two processes that are linked to relationship quality, are associated with older men’s and women’s well-being.
We analyze 884 heterosexual couples from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (2010-11). We estimate Actor–Partner Interdependence Models using the SEM approach to assess three well-being outcomes: general happiness, psychological distress, and self-reported mental health.
Older adults with better relationship quality gave oral sex to their partner more often than those with worse relationship quality; this association was stronger for men than for women. While receiving oral sex was positively related to both men’s and women’s perceptions of relationship quality, women’s relationship quality was more strongly linked to their partners’ well-being than men’s. Correspondingly, men’s giving of oral sex (and thus their female partner’s receiving of oral sex) was positively related to their own well-being through increasing their female partner’s perceived relationship quality.
Given the high prevalence of sexual dysfunctions among older adults, oral sex may play an important but overlooked role in maintaining an active sexual life, a high-quality relationship, and psychological vibrancy in late life.