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Women's Sexual Health: Age Doesn't Matter

Most women fear that as they age and the hormone levels drop, so too will their enjoyment of, and oftentimes desire for sex. Fortunately, while diminishing hormones and sex may happen in the same breath, the latest research indicates that sexual desire has less to do with these changes than it does with lifestyle and other women's sexual health factors, at least some of which are under a woman's direct control. According to reports from a group of distinguished European sex experts in the first ever supplement to The Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society, the findings have helped healthcare professionals discard the notion that sexual difficulties occurring close to menopause are either biologic or physiologic. The new research was part of a series of studies conducted on female sexual dysfunction by the department of clinical psychiatry and psychotherapy at Hanover Medical School in Hanover, Germany. As part of the overall project, 102 women aged 20 to “45 plus” answered 165 questions designed to flush out determinants of female sexual satisfaction. Specifically, researchers hoped to determine satisfaction with sex life in general, sexual satisfaction and orgasm during intercourse, petting, masturbation, attitudes towards sexuality, quality of partnership, and women's sexual health myths.

Based on the study, there appeared to be no differences with respect to frequency of sexual intercourse or the desire for sexual activity not involving intercourse among the differing age groups. Age did not make a difference in regard to frequency of orgasm or in sexual satisfaction ratings with their partners. For example, 29% of women up to age 45 reported having orgasms “very often,” compared with 26% of women over age 45. Even more dramatic was that while 41% of women over age 45 reported having orgasms "often," only 29% of younger women reported having orgasm "often." Among the few differences in the groups: Women over 45 reported having fewer orgasms during non-intercourse sexual activity or during masturbation.

Both groups of women reported a dual dimension necessary for successful lovemaking that included having both feelings of emotional closeness to their partner and satisfactory physical experiences. After comparing all the answers from both older and younger women, as well as from women who reported sexual problems and those who did not, researchers concluded that the single most influential factor with regard to women's sexual health satisfaction via intercourse was the quality of the partnership, in particular the quality of mutual respect, which then becomes of greater importance as a woman ages. After comparing these study results to earlier and ongoing findings, the researchers concluded that the basis of any sexual problems that did occur at midlife could not be drawn from menopause status or age alone. Instead, life stressors, contextual factors, past sexuality, and mental health problems are more significant predictors of midlife on women's sexual health interest than menopause status itself. This study was just one of several research papers presented in the journal on the subject of women's sexual health dysfunction. Each one striving to shed much needed light on a subject that some believe has been hidden in the shadows too long.


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