Sexual activity and satisfaction in healthy community-dwelling older women

Am J Med. 2012 Jan;125(1):37-43.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.07.036.


Background: Female sexual dysfunction is a focus of medical research, but few studies describe the prevalence and covariates of recent sexual activity and satisfaction in older community-dwelling women.

Methods: A total of 1303 older women from the Rancho Bernardo Study were mailed a questionnaire on general health, recent sexual activity, sexual satisfaction, and the Female Sexual Function Index.

Results: A total of 806 of 921 respondents (87.5%) aged 40 years or more answered questions about recent sexual activity. Their median age was 67 years; mean years since menopause was 25; most were upper-middle class; 57% had attended at least 1 year of college; and 90% reported good to excellent health. Half (49.8%) reported sexual activity within the past month with or without a partner, the majority of whom reported arousal (64.5%), lubrication (69%), and orgasm (67.1%) at least most of the time, although one third reported low, very low, or no sexual desire. Although frequency of arousal, lubrication, and orgasm decreased with age, the youngest (<55 years) and oldest (>80 years) women reported a higher frequency of orgasm satisfaction. Emotional closeness during sex was associated with more frequent arousal, lubrication, and orgasm; estrogen therapy was not. Overall, two thirds of sexually active women were moderately or very satisfied with their sex life, as were almost half of sexually inactive women.

Conclusion: Half these women were sexually active, with arousal, lubrication, and orgasm maintained into old age, despite low libido in one third. Sexual satisfaction increased with age and did not require sexual activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • California / epidemiology
  • Dyspareunia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Orgasm
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Partners