The current study consisted of more than 3,200 women from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation.
The researchers evaluated how various factors like race, education, body mass index, partner status, blood pressure, menopause status, antidepressant use, hormones, depression symptoms, perceived stress, sexual orientation, pelvic pain, sexual satisfaction, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes affected women’s interest in sex throughout the menopause transition.
The researchers were able to identify three distinct trajectories in the importance of sex with aging.
- For 45% of the women sex was important early in midlife and became less over time
- For 27% of the women, sex remained highly important throughout their midlife
- For 28% of the women sex was of low importance throughout midlife
Ethnically, the researchers found that black women were more likely to rate sex important during their midlife. However, Chinese and Japanese women were more likely to rate sex as not important or lose interest.
Women who had symptoms of depression were also more likely not to give importance or lose the importance of sex.
Better sexual satisfaction was also associated with maintained high levels of importance of sex over time, as was higher education.
“Studies like these provide valuable insights to healthcare providers who may otherwise dismiss a woman’s waning sexual desire as a natural part of aging,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.
“Often, there are other treatable reasons, such as vaginal dryness or depression, as to why a woman’s interest in sex may have decreased,” she added.