IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Body image can dampen desire in older women

Women who lose their sexual desire as they age may not be the victims of hormonal changes but may be reacting to their own body image, U.S. researchers reported.
/ Source: Reuters

Women who lose their sexual desire as they age may not be the victims of hormonal changes but may be reacting to their own body image, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

The more a woman perceived herself as less attractive, the more likely she was to report a decline in sexual desire or activity over the past 10 years, the team at Penn State University found.

“Our results suggest that ’treatment,’ via medication, of menopausal effects for this purpose seems unwarranted in light of the findings that menopausal status did not have a significant impact on the sexual responding of the women in this study,” said Dr. Patricia Barthalow Koch, an associate professor of biobehavioral health and women’s studies who led the study.

Koch’s team studied 307 mostly white, heterosexual women aged 35 to 55.

About 21 percent said they were pre-menopausal, 63.5 percent said they were undergoing some menopausal changes and 15.5 percent were past menopause.

Nearly 21 percent of the women could not think of even one attractive feature and reported an overall sense of dissatisfaction with their bodies, Koch’s team reported in The Journal of Sex Research. The women especially disliked their stomachs or abdomens, hips, thighs and legs.

Two-thirds of the women said they either desired sex less than 10 years before or that they had sex less often.

But the women reported that when they did have sex, there was a high level of enjoyment, with 72 percent saying they were physically and emotionally satisfied in their sexual relationships.

“There has been a dearth of research examining the relationship between body image and women’s sexual response. These new results support a link between body image and sexual responding that needs further study,” Koch said.