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Sexual function and aging in racially and ethnically diverse women

OBJECTIVES: To examine factors influencing sexual activity and functioning in racially and ethnically diverse middle-aged and older women. DESIGN: Cross-sectional cohort study. SETTING: Integrated healthcare delivery system. PARTICIPANTS: One thousand nine hundred seventy-seven women aged 45 to 80. MEASUREMENTS: Self-administered questionnaires assessed sexual desire, activity, satisfaction, and problems. RESULTS: Of the 1,977 participants (876 white, 388 African American, 347 Latina, and 351 Asian women), 43% reported at least moderate sexual desire, and 60% had been sexually active in the previous 3 months. Half of sexually active participants (n=969) described their overall sexual satisfaction as moderate to high. Among sexually inactive women, the most common reason for inactivity was lack of interest in sex (39%), followed by lack of a partner (36%), physical problem of partner (23%), and lack of interest by partner (11%); only 9% were inactive because of personal physical problems. In multivariable analysis, African-American women were more likely than white women to report at least moderate desire (odds ratio (OR)=1.65, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.25-2.17) but less likely to report weekly sexual activity (OR=0.68, 95% CI=0.48-0.96); sexually active Latina women were more likely than white women to report at least moderate sexual satisfaction (OR=1.75, 95% CI=1.20-2.55). CONCLUSION: A substantial proportion of community-dwelling women remain interested and engaged in sexual activity into older age. Lack of a partner capable of or interested in sex may contribute more to sexual inactivity than personal health problems in this population. Racial and ethnic differences in self-reported sexual desire, activity, and satisfaction may influence discussions about sexual difficulties in middle-aged and older women.

Authors: Huang AJ; Subak LL; Thom DH; Van Den Eeden SK; Ragins AI; Kuppermann M; Shen H; Brown JS

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Aug;57(8):1362-8. Epub 2009 Jun 24.

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