Gay and bisexual men over the age of 70 tend to continue having an active sex life with multiple partners, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) sought to understand how many sexual partners people typically have as they get older in order to improve mathematical models of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

They found that 79 per cent of heterosexual women aged 70 and over had no partners in the last three weeks, while 17 per cent of gay men in the same age bracket had more than one sexual partner in the same timeframe.

Approximately half (50 per cent) of all heterosexual men involved in the study said they had one partner in the last three weeks – though this was increasingly likely to decrease to no partners as they got older.

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For example, 50 per cent of men aged 70 and over who had sex with a woman in the last three months did not report having a female partner in the last three weeks.

“Models of disease spread shouldn’t assume that young people are necessarily most at risk”

“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,” Dr Julii Brainard, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said.

“Or there might be an assumption that young people have the most sex.

“But the answer is more nuanced — and it partly depends on people’s sexuality.”

As part of the study, participants were asked their gender, sexual identity and how many sexual partners they had been with in the last three weeks and three months.

People having more than one recent sexual partner was uncommon in the wider population, but common among those who were recruited for the research via social media.

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Approximately 52 per cent of men found on Grindr reported having at least two recent male partners, a figure slightly lower (42 per cent) for those found via Facebook or Instagram.

In contrast, only two per cent of straight people over the age of 70 had multiple partners.

“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,” Brainard continued.

The study’s sample was made up of almost 3,300 people from the general population and 1,036 men who have sex with men.

It was conducted by UAE researchers in collaboration with King’s College London and University College London during the 2022 outbreak of mpox (formerly known as monkeypox).