Harvard Women's Health Watch

Sex and the older woman

Women over age 50 are having sex — and developing STIs — at a higher rate than commonly believed.

The notion that women lose interest in sexual activity after menopause has collapsed under scientific scrutiny. In a survey of 27,000 women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), more than 60% of women in their 50s, 45% of those in their 60s, and 28% of women in their 70s reported that they were sexually active, and almost two-thirds said they were happy with their level of sexual activity. Of those who were dissatisfied, more than half said they would prefer having sex more often. The study was reported in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society (November 2011).

Many smaller studies corroborate the WHI results. All in all, it's become clear that older women are more sexually active than is commonly believed. For example, a 2003 survey of 2,000 women conducted at the University of Michigan found that 46% of women in their 50s and 20% of women ages 60 and over were sexually active. A 2009 survey by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco indicated that 60% of 1,977 women ages 45 to 80 were sexually active.

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