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Sex and Aging: Women in for a Surprise?

Women More Likely to Have Age-Related Sexual Symptoms and More Likely to Be Surprised by Them, Survey Shows
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By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 25, 2008 -- Both men and women over 50 say they expect the desire for and ability to have sex to diminish with age. Women, however, are more likely to have physical symptoms and more likely to be surprised by them, according to a new study.

An online survey of 705 adults -- about half men and half women -- between ages 50 and 70 was conducted by Harris Interactive and funded by Duramed Pharmaceuticals. Participants were in heterosexual relationships with people also between the ages of 50 and 70. The survey was conducted during the last week of June 2008.

Of the women surveyed, 67% reported having experienced at least one menopause-induced sexual symptom, such as vaginal dryness (49%), low libido (47%), and pain during sex (23%).

Of the men surveyed, 59% reported experiencing any sexual symptom. Forty-eight percent reported inability to keep an erection, 30% reported an inability to get an erection, and 16% reported low libido.

Seventy-one percent of all participants expected the frequency of sex to diminish with age. The majority of participants said they thought men were more likely to have symptoms that would affect their ability to have sex with age. However, 67% of the women (vs. 59% of the men) reported having at least one such symptom.

Sixty-five percent of women who experienced sexual symptoms related to menopause reported they had not anticipated such symptoms. This compares to 51 percent of the men surveyed.

"The survey reveals a knowledge gap about the challenges women and men experience as they age," David B. Schwartz, MD, who practices obstetrics and gynecology at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, says in a written statement. "The majority of people surveyed believe men are more likely to experience sexual symptoms than women. This may be due to the volume and ease of accessibility to information about erectile dysfunction. Conversely, most women face sexual symptoms as they go through menopause, with less information readily available to them."

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