Another candle on the cake may mean a better love life for women: A new study reveals that women's satisfaction in the bedroom increases with age, even as sexual desire wanes.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, analyzed sexual activity, desire and satisfaction in a group of women, age 40 or older, with a median age of 67 years. The 806 women studied were part of the Rancho Bernardo Study, which has tracked the health of residents within a planned community in San Diego for 40 years.
The majority of women -- including sexually active and sexually inactive respondents -- were moderately or very satisfied with their sex lives, and the frequency at which women were very satisfied with their sex lives increased with respondents' ages. Likewise, nearly two-thirds of the women reported at least moderate satisfaction with their sexual relationships. The study was published in The American Journal of Medicine this month.
Satisfaction doesn't necessarily equate to desire, though. Nearly 40 percent of women surveyed never or almost never experienced sexual desire, with only 3 percent desiring sex always or almost always. This low rate of sexual desire wasn't limited to sexually inactive women; in fact, one-third of sexually active respondents indicated low, very low or no sexual desire.
"In contrast with traditional linear model in which desire precedes sex, these results suggest that women engage in sexual activity for multiple reasons, which may include affirmation or sustenance of a relationship," said lead investigator Dr. Elizabeth Barrett-Connor in a statement.
But women didn't need sex to be sexually satisfied. Just under half of the respondents who were sexually inactive indicated that they were at least moderately satisfied with their sex lives, the study found. “In this study, sexual activity was not always necessary for sexual satisfaction," noted first author Dr. Susan Trompeter in a statement. "Those who were not sexually active may have achieved sexual satisfaction through touching, caressing, or other intimacies developed over the course of a long relationship.
“Emotional and physical closeness to the partner may be more important than experiencing orgasm," Trompeter stated. "A more positive approach to female sexual health focusing on sexual satisfaction may be more beneficial to women than a focus limited to female sexual activity or dysfunction."
These results are similar to those found in a study released this summer by the Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, San Diego, which found that the majority of women aged 60 - 89 years old were moderately to very satisfied with their sex lives.
These results raise the question: What does it really mean to be sexually satisfied? Does satisfaction go beyond the sex itself, and does this change as we grow older? What do you think?