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. 2017 Feb;54(2):137-148.
doi: 10.1080/00224499.2016.1233315. Epub 2016 Oct 31.

Sexual Quality of Life and Aging: A Prospective Study of a Nationally Representative Sample

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Sexual Quality of Life and Aging: A Prospective Study of a Nationally Representative Sample

Miriam K Forbes et al. J Sex Res. .
Free PMC article


Unlike other life domains, sexual quality of life (SQoL) has a negative relationship with age. This study disentangled the effect of age in this relationship from confounding sociocultural influences (e.g., the period of time in which data were collected, and cohort differences) and aimed to understand the roles of other sexual domains (i.e., frequency, perceived control, thought and effort invested in sex, and number of sexual partners). We analyzed data from the longitudinal Midlife in the United States study (n = 6,278; age range 20-93), which were collected between 1995 and 2013. Repeated measures linear mixed-effects models showed that age was the most robust time-related predictor of declining SQoL. However, after the sexual domains were included in the model, age had a positive relationship with SQoL and older adults' SQoL was differentially influenced by the quality-not quantity-of sex. When partnership characteristics were included in the model, age was no longer related to SQoL. These findings suggest that aging may be associated with the acquisition of skills and strategies that can buffer age-related declines in SQoL, particularly in the context of a positive relationship. We summarize these findings as sexual wisdom.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest


Figure 1
Figure 1
Illustration of the age, period, and cohort trends in the observed means of sexual quality of life (SQoL). Panel 1 shows change within age groups over time, based on the age of participants at the first wave of data collection; Panel 2 compares the age distributions of mean SQoL at the three periods of assessment; Panel 3 compares age-matched groups at the three periods of assessment (e.g., the reported SQoL for participants aged 67–75 in 1995, compared to those aged 67–75 in 2004, and those aged 67–75 in 2013). Age brackets are 9 years wide to allow for the visualisation of period and cohort effects, given the waves of data collection were 9 years apart: MIDUS-I was conducted in 1995–1996, MIDUS-II was conducted in 2004–2005, and MIDUS-III was conducted in 2013–2014. MIDUS = Midlife in the United States.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Estimated marginal means for sexual quality of life (SQoL) in a model with age and period effects that shows the moderating effect of age on the rate of change between periods of measurement. Older adults had a steeper decline in SQoL than younger adults. Error bars show 99.9% confidence intervals. Age at MIDUS-I is calculated in ten-year increments from the centred age variable. Exact values are mid-20s = 26.6, mid-30s = 36.6, mid 40s = 46.6, mid 50s = 56.6, mid 60s = 66.6, and mid 70s = 76.6. MIDUS = Midlife in the United States.

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