Although various studies have linked physical problems like hormonal changes and vaginal dryness to dissatisfaction with sex after age 40, a small but interesting study has suggested the opposite may be true -- women are actually more satisfied with their sex lives between the ages of 45 and 60. The finding of the study has to do with psychology: they are more comfortable with their bodies and with expressing to their sexual partners what their needs and desires are, as compared to when they were younger women, according to KTBS.
Interviews conducted with 36 women aged 45 to 60 found that they enjoyed sex more than they did when they were younger, even if sexual activity was less frequent. Lead study author Dr. Holly Thomas, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, explained the factors regarding the results of her qualitative study.
"These women felt more confident and more comfortable in their own skin as they got older, and this allowed them to feel more free in the bedroom. They had a better knowledge and understanding of their own bodies as they got older. And they felt more comfortable and empowered to communicate their sexual needs to their partner than when they were younger."
Other research has looked at the rates of sexual problems for older women, such as low sex drive and problems with vaginal dryness. But that research hadn't been the type to actually interview women and give them a chance to express all of their thoughts on sex after age 45. Thomas said her team of researchers wanted to try a different approach: interviewing women personally.
"We used a different technique, speaking to women face-to-face using interviews and focus groups, to try to see if there was more to the picture. "
The women in the study had a mean age of 58, approximately 50 percent were Caucasian, and all but two described themselves as heterosexual. While it is a small study, it may invoke interest and draw attention to the subject matter so that larger studies of a similar nature can be conducted.
Dr. Jan Shifren, the director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Midlife Women's Health Center, said that studies like this were important to show that there are positive aspects of aging since our culture seems to equate dissatisfaction in most areas with being older. Specifically, she said that older women worry about vaginal dryness, loss of interest in sex, and difficulty in reaching orgasm because those are the things they hear about. Hearing some positives may make a big difference in how someone approaches sexuality as an older female. Dr. Shifren was not involved in the study but shared her thoughts about the methodology and the findings.
"It's important for people to realize that everything that happens with aging is not doom and gloom, and there can even be some positive things in terms of sexuality. We hear about negative things like low libido, but... the women in the new study are telling us they're experiencing these changes because they're experiencing a lot of midlife stressors. We should not automatically say that sexual changes are just biologic. We have to remember this is a complex time in women's lives."
What is the overall takeaway finding of this study? Simply concentrate on things that can be changed, Dr. Shifren says. She also had advice for the sexual partners of older women.
"If there are changes due to aging and your female partner seems to be getting less pleasure from sex, think about what you can do to make it more pleasurable, such as other ways you can increase intimacy. Some couples adapt by being more creative, by adopting new positions and activities."
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