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Partner’s Sexual Issues Can Factor Into Low Libido in Older Women

A new study has discovered several reasons for a lack of libido in women in their 60s, including sexual dysfunction in their partners.

“If a woman is having sexual problems, what’s going on with her partner may be contributing. Sex doesn’t occur in a vacuum,” said lead author Holly Thomas, M.D., M.S., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Up to 40 percent of women over age 60 have low libido, with about 10 percent reporting they feel bothered by it.

To understand what’s causing these women to have lower libido, the researchers conducted three 12-woman focus groups and interviewed 15 other women privately, depending on which setting the participant preferred.

Through these conversations, five major themes emerged:

  1. Postmenopausal vaginal symptoms;
  2. Erectile dysfunction in partner;
  3. Fatigue or bodily pain;
  4. Life stressors;
  5. Body image.

The most surprising thread was that so many women identified sexual dysfunction in their male partners as a major contributor to their own lack of desire for sex, according to Thomas.

“Some women find workarounds, but others get stonewalled by their partner because he feels defensive,” Thomas said. “As women, we’re encouraged to be accommodating, so we learn to tamp down our own needs and desires, and prioritize those of others.”

Another revelation was that for some women, despite having retired from their jobs and successfully ejected their adult children from their houses, they were still too stressed to view sex as a priority, the researchers reported.

For instance, one woman bemoaned the emotional burden of caring for her ailing mother while simultaneously supporting her daughter through recovery from a substance use disorder.

The researchers report there were several limitations of this study, most notably the small, racially homogeneous sample and the lack of quantitative data.

Still, since most of the research on low libido in older women has focused on hormones, hearing detailed accounts from the women produces novel ideas that may not come out of a large survey, Thomas concluded.

The study was published in Menopause.

Source: University of Pittsburgh

Partner’s Sexual Issues Can Factor Into Low Libido in Older Women

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2019). Partner’s Sexual Issues Can Factor Into Low Libido in Older Women. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Dec 2019 (Originally: 11 Dec 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Dec 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.