It's a myth that women want less sex as they age, new study suggests

Couple in bed.
Couple in bed.
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A recent study has revealed that it is a myth that women in their midlife and beyond lose interest in sex.

The study - which followed over 3200 women for approximately 15 years - was presented during the 2020 virtual annual meeting of The North American Menopause Society. It stated that:

“About a quarter of women rate sex as very important, regardless of their age. The study showed substantial numbers of women still highly value sex, even as they get older, and it's not abnormal,” said lead author and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr Holly Thomas.


Myth busting

Previous studies have suggested that women tend to lose interest in sex as they age. But, women's health practitioners say that attitude doesn't correlate with the reality they see.

"Some of the prior studies had suggested that sex goes downhill and all women lose interest in sex as they get older," Thomas said.

"That really isn't the type of story that I hear from all my patients. That type of longitudinal study would just show averages over time and if you look at things on average, it may look like everyone follows one path.”

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Thomas said that the new research used a completely different method that allowed researchers to observe the trajectory of a lady’s sexual desire over time.

“We wanted to use this different type of technique to see if there really were these different patterns,” Thomas said.

“And when you look for these trajectories, you see there are significant groups of women who follow another path.”

High and low pathways of sexual curiosity

The analysis, which looked at information from a nationwide multi-site study referred to as SWAN, or the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, discovered three distinct pathways in a lady’s emotions in regards to the significance of sex.

About a fourth of the women (28%) adopted a conventional pondering on the topic: They valued sex much less throughout midlife years.

However, one other fourth of the women within the study reported the exact opposite. Some 27% of the women mentioned sex stays extremely necessary all through their 40s, 50s and 60s — a stunning contradiction of the old-age perception that all women lose curiosity in sex as they age.

“Sex is going to look different,” Dr William Faubion, the director of the Mayo Clinic Centre for Women’s Health, said in a statement. 

“It’s not going to look the same at 40 as it does at 20; it’s not going to look the same at 60 as it does at 40 and it’s not going to look the same as at 80, as it did at 60,” she said.

“There may be some modifications that we have to do, but people in general who are healthy and in good relationships remain sexual.”

Women within the study who extremely valued sex shared certain traits including:

  • They were extremely educated.
  • They had been much less depressed compared to the other groups.

“Women who were having more satisfying sex when they were in their 40s were more likely to continue to highly value sex as they got older,” Thomas mentioned.


Socio-economic considerations

There is also socioeconomic components at play, Dr Faubion added. For instance, extremely educated women could have larger incomes and feel extra secure about their livelihoods with much less stress.

“Therefore they have more headspace to make sex a priority because they’re not worrying about other things,” Thomas mentioned.

The study discovered one other issue that was necessary to each lower-interest and high-interest pathways — race and ethnicity.

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African American women had been more likely to say sex was necessary to them in the course of midlife, whereas Chinese and Japanese women had been more likely to charge sex as having low significance all through their midlife years.

“I do want to emphasise that it’s much more likely to be due to socio-cultural factors than any biological factor,” Thomas mentioned.

“Women from different cultural groups have different attitudes… different comfort levels about getting older… and whether it’s ‘normal’ for a woman to continue to value sex as she gets older."

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