Sexual Function and Aging in Racially and Ethnically Diverse Women

Authors


  • This paper was presented at the national scientific meeting of the Society for General Internal Medicine in Pittsburgh, PA, April 10, 2008.

Address correspondence to Alison J. Huang, 1635 Divisadero St, Ste 600, San Francisco, CA 94115. E-mail: ahuang@ucsfmed.org

Abstract

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.

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