For Women, Sex is Like Fine Wine

Postmenopausal women often reach orgasm and their sex lives keep getting better

January 13, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Women may not have as much sexual desire once they're well past middle age, but they are still enjoying it - and their sexual satisfaction improves as they age.

A study of older women revealed that 61 percent of them were satisfied overall with their sex lives, and the level of satisfaction increased as the women got older.

The oldest women - those over 80 - were actually the most satisfied overall.

"Desire and youth aren't necessary for a woman's satisfying sex life."

Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD, of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, led the study, which involved 806 women who are part of a larger group for the Rancho Bernardo Study.

They live in a planned community near San Diego and have provided health information for medical research for 40 years. The women provided information regarding their sexual activity, their sexual desire and their satisfaction with their sex life.

The average age of the women, most of whom were past menopause, was 67.

Among the items measured were how often they feel aroused, achieve orgasm, produce lubrication and experience pain during intercourse.

Half of the women who had partners had been sexually active during the previous month, though a third of the women who were sexually active said they had low sexual desire.

The older the women were, the less often they had sex, but 67 percent of the women who did have sex reached orgasm most of the time.

Those who reported reaching orgasm most often were the youngest and oldest women in the study.

Of all the women, 40 percent said they never or almost never feel sexual desire, but this did not necessarily correlate with their satisfaction.

About half of the women over age 80, for example, reported almost never feeling sexual desire, but they reported arousal, lubrication and orgasm most of the time - and sexual satisfaction almost always.

"In contrast with the 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," Barrett-Connor said.

Co-author Susan Trompeter, MD, also of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and a doctor at the VA San Diego Healthcare System, said the study reveals that emotional and physical closeness may be more important than climaxing for women.

"Those who were not sexually active may have achieved sexual satisfaction through touching, caressing, or other intimacies developed over the course of a long relationship," Trompeter said.

"A more positive approach to female sexual health focusing on sexual satisfaction may be more beneficial to women than a focus limited to female sexual activity or dysfunction," she added.

The study is published in the January issue of the American Journal of Medicine. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging Grants and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Grant. The three authors stated they have no financial conflicts of interest.