Popular culture suggests that women lose interest in sex as they age, but new research finds that those who want it keep on having it.
More precisely, women who value sex the most are more likely to remain sexually active, according to a new study of more than 600 midlife women conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Healthcare.
“Women who said sex was moderately or extremely important were three times as likely to remain active as women who said not at all,” said Dr. Holly Thomas, the women’s health expert who helped design the study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Thomas and her colleagues studied women between the ages of 40 and 65 starting in 2005. After four years, researchers determined that 354 of the initial 602 participants were sexually active. Of that group, nearly 85 percent said sex was moderately to extremely important. By the end of the study, more than 85 percent of those who valued it most were still sexually active.
For a group then ranging in age from 48 to 73, “active” meant that they had sex at least once in the previous six months. The new research didn't look at frequency, but Thomas said other research shows that once a month is average for this age group.
“Sexual contact,” too, means different things. For 8 percent of study participants, it could mean simple touching or kissing. For the other 92 percent, Thomas said it meant “something more involved.”
“A woman's sex life may change over time, but that doesn't necessarily mean sex isn't important or she isn't enjoying it,” Thomas said.That makes sense to Bonnie Taylor, 65, of Hood River, Ore., who has a doctorate in psychology, a husband of 33 years -- and what she says is a pretty darned good sex life.
She says the new research isn’t surprising. After years as a busy mom and professional, she says her sex life has been liberated. “Oh, yeah,” she says. “There's more time. And we have the house to ourselves. That makes a huge difference.”