A new study has identified several psychosocial contributors to why women have less sex as they age.
Previous research has focused largely on biological causes, such as hot flashes, sleep disruption, vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.
The new study looks at the effects of psychosocial changes that are common post-menopause, including body image concerns, self-confidence and perceived desirability, stress, mood changes, and relationship issues.
The study of nearly 4,500 postmenopausal women involved in the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) found that before the start of annual screening, approximately half of the women were sexually active.
Researchers report a decrease in all aspects of sexual activity was observed over time: Sexual activity was less frequent, not as pleasurable, and more uncomfortable.
The primary reason for the absence of sexual activity was the lack of a partner, mainly because of widowhood.
Other commonly cited reasons for decreased activity included a partner’s medical condition, a partner’s sexual dysfunction, the woman’s own physical health problems, menopause-related symptoms, and prescribed medication.
Contributing most often to low libido were relationship problems, logistics, and perceptions of aging.
The study discovered that only 3 percent of participants described positive sexual experiences, while only 6 percent sought medical help for sexual problems.
“Sexual health challenges are common in women as they age, and partner factors play a prominent role in women’s sexual activity and satisfaction, including the lack of a partner, sexual dysfunction of a partner, poor physical health of a partner, and relationship issues,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.
“In addition, menopause-related problems such as vaginal dryness and pain with sex have been identified as problems affecting sexual function, yet few women seek treatment for these issues, despite the availability of effective therapies.”
The study was published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society.