Sexual touching and difficulties with sexual arousal and orgasm among U.S. older adults

Arch Sex Behav. 2012 Aug;41(4):875-90. doi: 10.1007/s10508-011-9873-7. Epub 2011 Dec 8.


Little is known about the non-genitally-focused sexual behavior of those experiencing sexual difficulties. The objective of this study was to review the theory supporting a link between sexual touching and difficulties with sexual arousal and orgasm, and to examine associations between these constructs among older adults in the United States. The data were from the 2005-2006 National Social Life Health and Aging Project, which surveyed 3,005 community-dwelling men and women ages 57-85 years. The 1,352 participants who had had sex in the past year reported on their frequency of sexual touching and whether there had been a period of several months or more in the past year when they were unable to climax, had trouble getting or maintaining an erection (men) or had trouble lubricating (women). Women also reported how often they felt sexually aroused during partner sex in the last 12 months. The odds of being unable to climax were greater by 2.4 times (95% CI 1.2-4.8) among men and 2.8 times (95% CI 1.4-5.5) among women who sometimes, rarely or never engaged in sexual touching, compared to those who always engaged in sexual touching, controlling for demographic factors and physical health. These results were attenuated but persisted after controlling for emotional relationship satisfaction and psychological factors. Similar results were obtained for erectile difficulties among men and subjective arousal difficulties among women, but not lubrication difficulties among women. Infrequent sexual touching is associated with arousal and orgasm difficulties among older adults in the United States.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Libido*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orgasm*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / psychology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Touch*
  • United States