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AGS: Sexuality Is Dampened with Age But Not Extinguished


SEATTLE -- Sex remains an important part of life for many older Americans even as they develop more sexual problems as they age, researchers here reported.

SEATTLE, May 7 -- Sex remains an important part of life for many older Americans even as they develop more sexual problems as they age, researchers here reported.

In a nationwide survey of 3,005 community-dwelling adults ages 57 to 85, about a third of men and roughly 25% of women said that sex was an important part of their lives.

But among men and women who said they had sexual problems ranging form diminished libido to erectile dysfunction, only 28% said they had discussed those problems with a physician, said Stacy Lindau, M.D., of the University of Chicago at the American Geriatrics Society meeting.

"Interestingly, this study suggests that sexual practices and behaviors are not very different in this age group than they are in studies of younger people," she said, reporting results of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project survey.

And regardless of age, sexual activity is closely related to health. "At any age healthier people are more likely to report active sex lives," she said.

Jane Potter, M.D., a professor of geriatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and immediate past president of the AGS, said the findings should serve as a wakeup call to physicians treating older patients about the need to include direct questions about sexuality as part of routine clinical assessment.

Investigators conducted in-home interviews with 1,550 women and 1,455 men from July 2005 through March 2006.

Among the findings:

  • Forty percent of men and 34% of women ages 57 to 64 said they had sex at least once a week. Frequency declined with age, but at ages 75 to 85, 22.8% of men and 23.6% of women maintained this level of sexual activity.
  • At all ages intercourse was the most frequent type of sexual activity, with 91.1% of men and 86.8% of women ages 57 to 64 saying sex usually or always included intercourse.
  • Sixty-two percent of men and 70% of women said they had at least one problem that affected sexual function.
  • Of those reporting problems, 26% of men and 31% of women said they avoided sex as a result of those problems.
  • In the youngest age group -- those 57 to 64 -- 28.2% of men and 44.2% of women said they had diminished libido.
  • In the youngest age group 30.7% of men said they had "erection problems" as did 44.6% of men ages 65 to 74 and 43.5% of men ages 75 to 85.
  • Among women, 35.9% ages 57 to 64 reported difficulty lubricating and that percentage increased to 44% in the oldest group surveyed.
  • At all ages, women were more likely to report pain during intercourse and lack of pleasure from sex.
  • More than 80% of men and close to 90% of women who described their health as very good to excellent said they had an active sex life with a spouse or romantic partner versus 60% of men and 80% of women who described their health as poor.
  • About 15% of all respondents said they were using medication to "treat sexual problems or enhance sexual function."

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