Objectives: This study assessed the association between sexual activity, mismatches in the importance attributed to sex within couples, and relationship quality in older Irish adults.
Method: We used data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) to derive a scale of subjective relationship strain in married or cohabiting individuals. Negative binomial regression was used to assess the association between relationship strain and sexual activity. Separate models assessed the associations with importance of sex and within-couple mismatch in the importance attributed to sex and whether these associations were independent from sexual activity. Age interactions were tested.
Results: Sexual activity and within-couple mismatch in the importance attributed to sex were associated with relationship strain. The frequency of sexual activity was consistently associated with less relationship strain for men, but less so for women when the importance attributed to sex was accounted for. Results were largely consistent across age groups for men, but sexual activity and importance of sex varied with age in women.
Discussion: Frequent sexual activity was associated with less strain within-intimate relationships. For women, this association was weakened when accounting for the importance attributed to sex. Within-couple mismatch in the importance attributed to sex was associated with relationship strain, independent from frequency of sexual activity, for both men and women at all ages.