London, March 6 : Older women, who are sporty or bisexual, are more likely to have a higher than average number of sexual partners in a lifetime compared to their female peers, says a new study.
Such women also share some social, demographic and behavioural patterns with men, like income influencing same sex preference among older men, the findings indicated.
So far, studies on sexual behaviour and associated health risks have tended to focus on teenagers and young people rather than older age groups, say the researchers from the University College London.
To plug this knowledge gap, the team included a sample of 3,054 men and 3,867 women aged 50 and above to explore the factors associated with the numbers of sexual partners they had.
Information on ethnicity, marital status, household income, sexual orientation, health and lifestyle -- the frequency and quantity of smoking, drinking and physical activity -- was also gathered.
The findings, published in BMJ Sexual (and) Reproductive Health, showed that men were more likely than women to report a higher number of lifetime sexual partners.
Just under 40 per cent of men and around one in four (24 per cent) of women had had at least five sexual partners.
However, bisexuality in women was associated with a higher number of lifetime sexual partners.
Women of white ethnicity reported a higher number of sexual partners than women from other ethnic backgrounds.
Also, women doing regular moderate to intensive exercise were associated with a higher number of sexual partners.
The reason behind this was not clear.
For men, those in the bottom 20 per cent of income and those in the top 20 per cent reported higher numbers of lifetime sexual partners.
The number of lifetime sexual partners in both the sexes was associated with younger age, marital or partner status (separated/divorced, single/never married), and regular drinking and smoking, the findings showed.
This information may help health practitioners identify individuals who are at the greatest risk of sexually-transmitted infections and their associated health complications over the life course, the study noted.