Multiple studies show that older women are still sexually active beyond their seventh decade of life. A new study published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), suggests, however, that at least one in seven women aged 65 to 79 years has hypoactive sexual desire dysfunction (HSDD).
In the questionnaire-based, cross-sectional study, more than 1,500 Australian women were assessed for sexual function and sexual distress as defined by the Female Sexual Function Index and the Female Sexual Distress Scale-Revised. The group consisted of 52.6% partnered women, with a mean age of 71 years. Within this group, 88% were found to have low sexual desire, 15.5% had sexually related personal distress, and 13.6% had HSDD, which is defined as the presence of both low sexual desire and sexually related personal distress. This percentage was higher than what had previously been reported for women in this age group and similar to the prevalence reported for younger women.
Although HSDD was found to be more common in women with partners, the study confirmed that unpartnered older women are still sexually active and may be distressed by low sexual desire. Independent factors included vaginal dryness during intercourse in the past month, having moderate to severe depressive symptoms, and having symptomatic pelvic floor dysfunction.
"This study demonstrates that healthcare providers need to have honest and open discussions with their patients as they age with regard to desire, mood, vaginal dryness, and pelvic floor issues to determine whether these factors are affecting a woman's desire or ability to be sexual," says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.
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