The belief that older women are not interested in sex is simply untrue. This surprising research result from a national multi-site study called SWAN, or the Study of Women’s Health Access Across the Nation, designed the study to focus on the trajectory of a woman’s desire over time. In the past, studies had suggested that sex slowed down as women lost interest as they aged, however, reality says differently.
What this new study discovered was three distinct pathways in how older women feel about the importance of sex to them. One trajectory found that 28% of women had a more traditional view on sex and began to value it less as they age. Another 27% of women stated sex was of low importance to them, while the third and largest trajectory (48%) said that sex remained highly important to them throughout their 40s, 50s, and 60s. This third trajectory contradicted the belief that all women lose interest in sex as they age.
One interesting discovery was the importance of sex depending on a woman’s race and ethnicity. Black women were more likely to say sex was important throughout midlife whereas Chinese and Japanese women rated sex not an important part of their life as they grew older These two distinct views likely are based on their cultural differences and comfort levels they have getting older.
Researchers with the study wanted to know what factors influenced older women’s views on sex and sexuality and the importance of it? The study found four categories that had a major effect on the views of older women who still value the importance of sex:
Women can begin as early in their 40s experiencing bodily changes having the potential to disrupt sexual pleasure with the most notable being perimenopause. This is when hormonal changes are occurring eventually leading to menopause. For some women, this change of life may cause sex to be less enjoyable than when they were younger.
Part of this lack of desire stems from changes in the vagina. As estrogen levels drop, the vaginal wall thins out and becomes drier making intercourse more painful. Along with hot flashes, mood swings, brain fog, and possibly depression, these conditions can lead to low libido.
Other medical conditions impacting sex life are health issues such as osteoarthritis or complications of diabetes that affect a woman’s desire for bedroom activities.
Mental and emotional considerations
Women with past issues of sexual or physical abuse, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and stress, all take a toll on their sex life. Women suffering from any of these mental/emotional maladies are less like to rate sex high on their priority list.
Women entering midlife may find themselves in situations they hadn’t anticipated such as losing their partner to death or divorce. Or maybe their partner has developed major health issues requiring a much greater level of care. If there are any marital or relationship problems brewing, this can negatively affect a woman’s level of wanting to be intimate with her partner. Another factor is that women often are the major caregivers of children, grandchildren, or elderly parents, all making sex less of a priority in their lives.
Depending on a woman’s upbringing revolving around her religious, cultural and family values plays a role in how they view their sexuality. Women brought up more strictly may view being sexual as an older woman as not normal or that sex should fade away as each birthday goes by. They may not see sexual satisfaction as a right for them to experience pleasure, enjoyment, and fulfillment as a woman having good sex.
The takeaway message for older women
An important message to women from this study is your sex life or sexual desire does not end after menopause. Humans are sexual creatures and can remain so well into old age. All of us have the capacity to love intimately and expressively showing our affection for our partners no matter how old we are.
Any older woman who finds little to no interest in having sexual relations should ideally discuss this with her doctor. Unfortunately, hesitation and embarrassment to openly talk about this topic inhibits them from seeking the help they deserve. Sexual health is vital for a woman’s health and there are treatments for conditions such as vaginal dryness or depression inhibiting a woman’s interest in sex. This is an important part of a woman’s life and should not go unaddressed.