Association of Lifestyle and Relationship Factors with Sexual Functioning of Women During Midlife

Authors

  • Rachel Hess MD, MSc,

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    2. Center for Research on Health Care, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    3. Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School on Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
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  • Molly B. Conroy MD, MPH,

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    2. Center for Research on Health Care, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    3. Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School on Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
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  • Roberta Ness MD, MPH,

    1. The University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, TX, USA
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  • Cindy L. Bryce PhD,

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    2. Center for Research on Health Care, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    3. Department of Health Policy and Management, Graduate School on Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
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  • Stacey Dillon MS,

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    2. Center for Research on Health Care, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
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  • Chung-Chou Ho Chang PhD,

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    2. Center for Research on Health Care, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    3. Department of Biostatistics, Graduate School on Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
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  • Karen A. Matthews PhD

    1. Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School on Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    2. Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
    3. Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
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Rachel Hess, MD, MSc, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 230 McKee Place, Suite 600, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Tel: 412-692-2025; Fax: 412-692-4838; E-mail: hessr@upmc.edu

ABSTRACT

Introduction.  As women progress through menopause, they experience changes in sexual functioning that are multifactorial, likely encompassing biological, psychological, and social domains.

Aim.  To examine the effects that physical activity, sleep difficulties, and social support have on partnered sexual activity and sexual functioning in women at different stages of the menopausal progression.

Methods.  As part of an ongoing 5-year longitudinal study, we conducted a cross-sectional analysis of sexual functioning data.

Main Outcome Measures.  Participation in partnered sexual activities, reasons for nonparticipation in such activities among sexually inactive women, and, among sexually active women, sexual functioning defined as engagement in and enjoyment of sexually intimate activities.

Results.  Of 677 participants aged 41–68, 68% had participated in any partnered sexual activities (i.e., were sexually active) during the past 6 months. Reasons for sexual inactivity included lack of a partner (70%), lack of interest in sex (12%) or in the current partner (5%), and physical problems (4%). Sexually active participants tended to be younger, married, more educated, have more social support in general, fewer comorbid medical illnesses, a lower body mass index, and a higher prevalence of vaginal dryness. Among the sexually active participants, their scores for engagement in activities ranging from kissing to sexual intercourse were higher if they were physically active, had more social support, and lacked sleeping difficulties. Likewise, scores for sexual enjoyment were higher if they were physically active, had more social support, and lacked vaginal dryness. Engagement and enjoyment scores were not associated with marital status or other factors.

Conclusions.  In midlife women, having social support and being physically active are associated with enhanced sexual engagement and enjoyment. Hess R, Conroy MB, Ness R, Bryce CL, Dillon S, Chang CCH, and Matthews KA. Association of lifestyle and relationship factors with sexual functioning of women during midlife. J Sex Med 2009;6:1358–1368.

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