Sex is not just for younger women, new scientific study shows
New research suggests middle-aged women who are sexually active are likely to carry on having sex for decades after, suggesting many women do not lose interest in sex as they get older
Middle-aged woman who are sexually active are likely to keep on having sex as they grow older, even if they were diagnosed with sexual dysfunction, new research shows.
A team of researchers based at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recruited 602 women between the ages of 40 and 65 and asked them to report if they were sexually active, and how important they felt sex was in their lives.
“There’s this popular public perception that as women age, sex becomes unimportant, and that women just stop having sex as they get older,” lead author Dr. Holly Thomas said.
“From our study, it looks like most women continue to have sex during midlife,” she said.
“It may be detrimental to label a woman as sexually dysfunctional,” added Dr Thomas.
Psychologists and doctors have been debating the value of diagnosing women with sexual dysfunction since the release of Viagra triggered a search for a female version of the drug.
Doctors use a test called the Female Sexual Function Index to diagnose women’s sexual problems. The index includes 19 questions about arousal, orgasm, vaginal lubrication and pain during intercourse.
In the current study, 354 middle-aged and older women who reported being sexually active when they first took the test took it again four years later.
More than 85 percent of women reported that they remained sexually active when they took the test the second time between the ages of 48 and 73.
Nevertheless, those women generally scored low on the sexual-function index, with an average score of 22.3 – below the cutoff of 26.55 considered sexually dysfunctional.
The authors were surprised to find that sexual function, as measured by the index, failed to predict whether the women continued to have sex.
They theorized that the instrument “may be labeling women as dysfunctional when women don’t have a problem,” Thomas said.
The index’s “focus on intercourse may not accurately reflect what constitutes satisfying sex in this population, yielding falsely low scores,” she and her colleagues write.
Race, weight, relationship status and how important women deemed sex – rather than their scores on the sexual-function index – were the most important predictors of sexual activity, according to findings published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Women who rated sex as important were three times as likely to remain sexually active as women who rated it as unimportant, Thomas said.