Objectives: To assess the importance of sex and the prevalence of sexual dysfunction among middle-aged and older adults throughout the world. Increasing life expectancy has been accompanied by improvements in the health of the middle-aged and elderly, but little is known about how this has affected their sexual experience.
Methods: Data were collected in 29 countries from 27,500 men and women aged 40 to 80 years using a standardized questionnaire (self-completed or by interview). Sexual dysfunction was defined as frequent and persistent problems. They included early ejaculation and erectile difficulties in men, lubrication difficulties and pain during intercourse in women, and a lack of sexual interest, an inability to achieve orgasm, and a feeling of unpleasurable sex in both.
Results: More than 80% of the men and 65% of the women had had sexual intercourse during the past year. Of these subjects, the most common dysfunctions were early ejaculation (14%) and erectile difficulties (10%) among the men and a lack of sexual interest (21%), inability to reach orgasm (16%), and lubrication difficulties (16%) among the women. Overall, 28% of the men and 39% of the women said that they were affected by at least one sexual dysfunction.
Conclusions: The results of our study indicate that sexual desire and activity are widespread among middle-aged and elderly men and women worldwide and persist into old age. The prevalence of sexual dysfunctions was quite high and tended to increase with age, especially in men. Although major between-country differences were noted, this global study revealed some clear and consistent patterns.