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18 August 2008
Scientists Examine Triggers For Sexual Dysfunction
by George Atkinson

A new study by researchers at the University of Chicago suggests that sexual dysfunction is not an inevitable part of aging. Instead, it is strongly related to mental and physical health as well as demographics and lifetime experiences, say the scientists involved.

Importantly, the study found that a history of sexually transmitted disease (STD) has a large impact on sexual health later in life. "Having had an STD roughly quadruples a woman's odds of reporting sexual pain and triples her lubrication problems," noted Edward Laumann, the study's lead author. And men are more than five times as likely to report sex as non-pleasurable if they have previously had an STD, according to Laumann.

The study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, was based on interviews with a national sample of 1,550 women and 1,455 men, aged between 57 and 85. The survey collected data on social life, sexuality, health, and a broad range of biological measures.

The new study found that among older women, a common factor correlated with sexual dysfunction was urinary tract syndrome, which was associated with decreased interest in sex. Mental health issues such as anxiety also played a significant role in women's libido. The most common problem for men was found to be erectile dysfunction, a problem that increases with age.

Among men, mental health issues and relationship problems contributed to a lack of interest in sex and an inability to achieve orgasm. Interestingly, daily alcohol consumption seemed to improve a woman's sexual health, increasing her interest and pleasure in sex. Among men, there was no reported impact of alcohol consumption.

"The results point to a need for physicians who are treating older adults experiencing sexual problems to take into account their physical health and also consider their mental health and their satisfaction with their intimate relationship in making any assessment," Laumann concluded.

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Source: University of Chicago

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