Sex is quite important to most middle-aged women, a fact established by a new study in the Journal Menopause, which found that 75% of 1,390 middle-aged women reported sexual functioning to be moderately to extremely important.
Women experience a notable decline in sexual function and sex drive approximately 20 months before and one year after their last menstrual period, and that decrease continues, though at a somewhat slower rate, over the following five years, according to a study led by a researcher at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Of note, in the natural menopause group the researchers found that race/ethnicity played a major role in the decline of sexual function, with African-American women experiencing a significantly smaller sex drive decline and women of Japanese descent experiencing a much greater decline when compared with white women.
Key Sex Drive Study Findings
The study, published ahead of print in the online issue of Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, also found that various factors that frequently co-occur with menopause have less direct influence on declining sex drive and sexual function than menopause itself.
“Sexual functioning in women declines with age, and there has been much debate about how much this is due to menopause, aging or other physical, psychological or social factors,” said the study’s lead author, Nancy Avis, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist. “Our findings support that menopause has a negative effect on sexual functioning in many women.”
Additionally, the study found that women who have a hysterectomy before the onset of menopause do not experience a marked decline in sexual function and sex drive immediately before undergoing the procedure but do so afterward, for as long as five years.
Common issues known to accompany menopause, such as vaginal dryness, depression, and anxiety, didn’t explain the impact on sex drive, the researchers say.
“Sexual functioning is an important component of women’s lives. More than 75 percent of the middle-aged women in the SWAN study reported that sex was moderately to extremely important to them when the study began,” Avis said. “It is important for women and their health care providers to understand all the factors that may impact women’s experience of sex in relation to both the natural menopausal transition and hysterectomy, and we hope our findings will contribute to better understanding in this area.”