There’s a common misconception that as women age, they lose interest in sex due to their own physical problems. A new University of California-San Francisco study shows that is not the case for most women.
The study also showed significant differences in the frequency of sexual activity, as well as sexual desire and satisfaction, among racial groups of middle-aged and elderly women.
In the study of nearly 2,000 women, aged 45 to 80 years old, 43 percent reported at least moderate sexual desire, and 60 percent had been sexually active in the previous three months.
Half of all sexually active participants described their overall sexual satisfaction as moderate to high. More than one quarter of women aged 65 years or older remained moderately or highly interested in sex, and more than one third of women in this age group had been sexually active in the past three months.
Among sexually inactive women in the entire group, the most common reason was lack of interest in sex (39 percent), followed by lack of a partner (36 percent), physical problem of partner (23 percent) and lack of interest by partner (11 percent).
Only nine percent were sexually inactive from personal physical problems. A physical problem could be joint or other pain, mobility issues, or some other major health concern.
Sexual activity was defined as any activity that was arousing, including masturbation.
“Our findings indicate that a substantial portion of women are interested and engaged in sexual activity as they age,” said lead author Alison Huang, MD, assistant professor in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Clinicians should consider a woman’s overall health when addressing concerns about sexual inactivity. However, treatment directed solely at improving women’s sexual functioning, such as medications, may not substantially affect their activity if partner issues also are not addressed,” noted Huang.
Sexual health is an important component of a person’s health. If sexual health is waning, it may be symptomatic of a larger unaddressed or unknown health issue. Physicians should be aware and inquire into a person’s sexual health and functioning during annual check-ups.
The U.S. population is becoming increasingly diverse and older, as the first wave of baby boomers is turning 65 years old. Researchers evaluated multiple dimensions of sexual functioning among a racially and ethnically diverse group of middle-aged and older women who self–identified demographic characteristics, medical history, medication use and health habits. More than half the women in the overall study were of non-white ethnicity — 20 percent were African-American, 18 percent were Latina, and 19 percent were Asian – and over two-thirds of participants were married or living as married.
African-American women were more likely than white women to report at least moderate desire but less likely to report weekly sexual activity, and sexually active Latinas were more likely than white women to report at least moderate sexual satisfaction.
“To date, research has focused rather narrowly on the physical factors that contribute to women’s sexual response, and very little analysis has explored sexual function among racially and ethnically diverse women.”
“Further work is needed to understand the differences in self-reported sexual functioning by race, and how they change as women age. Ultimately, this information should help guide clinicians in discussing sexual problems with women of diverse backgrounds,” said Huang.
This was a robust study based upon a randomized sample in order to reach its findings, making it largely generalizeable to the population. The study helps to put to rest the false conventional wisdom that older people don’t think about or enjoy sex or sexual activity. It demonstrates that women do indeed engage in sexual thoughts and activities, even as they age.
The study appeared in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Source: University of California – San Francisco