Menopause Live - IMS Updates

Date of release: 13 February, 2012

Sexual activity and satisfaction in community-dwelling older women

Most medical practitioners still consider sexual activity to be the domain of the young, with elderly women rarely considered as having sexual needs or being sexually active. A recent publication of Trompeter and others [1] is an important addition to the small body of literature about the sexuality of older women. In all, 806 women with a mean age of 67 years responded to a questionnaire-based study of sexual activity, sexual satisfaction, and domains of the Female Sexual Function Index; 50% of the women reported sexual activity in the preceding 4 weeks. Although the likelihood of being sexually active declined with age, 40% of women aged 68–79 years and 13% of the women more than 79 years of age reported being sexually active within the last month. Furthermore, 23% of the women aged over 79 years reported arousal, with almost always a similar pattern of satisfaction to that of younger women. Not surprisingly, being sexually active was associated with younger age, living with a spouse or partner, current use of hormone replacement therapy and reporting better physical health.


Although aging per se interferes with the level of sexual activity, the improved health of older women and possibly altered expectations appear to have an impact on the sexual lives of older people over the last few decades. A Swedish study reported that the proportion of 70-year-old married women reporting sexual intercourse increased from 38% in 1971 to 56% in 2000 (p = 0.001) [2]. The data from both of these studies re-affirm that sexual activity remains an important part of life for many older women. The recent study of Trompeter further indicates that the decline in sexual desire and frequency of sexual activity with age is not necessarily perceived as problematic. Although the proportion of women with low sexual desire increases with age, associated distress decreases with age [3].


Susan Davis
Director, the Womens Health Research Program, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia


  1. Trompeter SE, Bettencourt R, Barrett-Connor E. Sexual activity and satisfaction in healthy community-dwelling older women. Am J Med 2012;125:37-43.

  2. Beckman N, Waern M, Gustafson D, Skoog I. Secular trends in self reported sexual activity and satisfaction in Swedish 70 year olds: cross sectional survey of four populations, 1971-2001. BMJ 2008;337:151-4.

  3. Hayes RD, Dennerstein L, Bennett CM, et al. Risk factors for female sexual dysfunction in the general population: exploring factors associated with low sexual function and sexual distress. J Sex Med 2008;5:1681-93.