Aging Doesn’t Automatically Snuff Out Your Fires of Desire!

Layne Lowery

Here’s some good news if you’re trying to keep the “vroom vroom” in your bedroom! A study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago has found that sexual dysfunction is not necessarily an inevitable part of aging.

The study findings show sexual problems among older Americans can be tied to many common life stressors—such as changes in mental or physical health. But the researchers said there was “little, if any, increase in sexual problems with increasing age for either gender.”

This finding is reported in the paper “Sexual Dysfunction Among Older Adults: Prevalence and Risk Factors from a Nationally Representative U.S. Probability Sample of Men and Women 57 to 85 Years of Age,” and is published in the current issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Researchers conducted interviews with 1,550 women and 1,455 men, ages 57 to 85 nationwide. The participants were also part of the 2005-2006 National Social Life, Health and Aging Project—a national survey of community-dwelling, older Americans. The survey collected data on social life, sexuality, health and a broad range of biological measures.

Study results showed that women were more likely than men to experience sexual dysfunction because of health issues. For example, researchers found that urinary tract infections increased women’s lack of interest or pleasure in sexual relations.

Researches also noted that any lifetime history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) nearly quadrupled women’s chances for experiencing pain or lubrication problems.

Men were similarly affected by such diseases—and were nearly five times as likely to report sex as non-pleasurable if they previously had an STD.

But the most common problem for men is erectile dysfunction, a problem that increases with age.

“The results point to a need for physicians who are treating older adults experiencing sexual problems to take into account their physical health and also consider their mental health and their satisfaction with their intimate relationship in making any assessment,” said Edward Laumann, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology at UOC, and lead author of the paper.