Sexual Satisfaction in Older Women: It’s Complicated

Psych Central

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on January 4, 2011

The country and western song that declares “older women are beautiful lovers” finds support in a new study showing sexual satisfaction in women increases with age.

At the same time, researchers discover aging women not engaging in sex are also satisfied with their sex lives. People in the study appeared satisfied with their sex life no matter how much or how little they were engaged in sexual activity.

In a study of older women, investigators discovered a majority of study participants report frequent arousal and orgasm that continue into old age, despite low sexual desire.

Researchers evaluated sexual activity and satisfaction as reported by 806 older women who are part of a group or cohort of women whose health has been tracked for medical research for 40 years.

The study measured the prevalence of current sexual activity; the characteristics associated with sexual activity including demographics, health, and hormone use; frequency of arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and pain during sexual intercourse; and sexual desire and satisfaction in older women.

Sixty-three percent of study participants were postmenopausal with a median age of 67. Half the respondents who reported having a partner had been sexually active in the last month.

Researchers discovered the likelihood of sexual activity declined with increasing age. But more than two-thirds of the sexually active women reported that they achieve orgasm most of the time or always. Interestingly, the youngest and oldest women in the study reported the highest frequency of orgasm satisfaction.

Among the study cohort, 40 percent of all women stated that they never or almost never felt sexual desire, and one third of the sexually active women reported low sexual desire.

Lead investigator Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, M.D., noted:

“Despite a correlation between sexual desire and other sexual function domains, only 1 in 5 sexually active women reported high sexual desire. Approximately half of the women aged 80 years or more reported arousal, lubrication, and orgasm most of the time, but rarely reported sexual desire. In contrast with traditional linear model in which desire precedes sex, these results suggest that women engage in sexual activity for multiple reasons, which may include affirmation or sustenance of a relationship.”

Although the findings may appear ambiguous, researchers clarify that regardless of partner status or sexual activity, 61 percent of all women in this cohort were satisfied with their overall sex life.

Investigators say that among the study participants, the percentage of sexually satisfied women actually increased with age, with approximately half of the women over 80 years old reporting sexual satisfaction almost always or always.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.