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Over-40s egage in sex, but problems common
Updated: 2004-12-25 15:58

A global survey of sex behavior after age 40 reveals that most people continue to have sex. However, aging romantics tend to encounter problems in their lovemaking.

An international group of researchers found that 80 percent of men ages 40 to 80 said they had sex within the last year, as did 65 percent of similarly aged women. Moreover, 38 percent of women and 44 percent of men said they had sex more than once per week.

Sexual activity was particularly high for men and women in their 40s, but tapered down with increasing age.

"The majority of people do report that, if they do have partners, they are involved sexually," Dr. Edward O. Laumann told Reuters Health.

Laumann and his team also found that around one-quarter of men reported some type of sexual problem, most commonly early ejaculation and erectile difficulties. Sexual problems were reported most commonly by Asian men.

Among women, nearly 40 percent said they experienced an acknowledged problem with sex, most commonly lack of sexual interest, inability to reach orgasm, lack of enjoyment, and lubrication problems. Women in Asia and the Middle East reported the highest proportion of problems.

In an interview, Laumann, who is based at the University of Chicago in Illinois, explained that it makes good evolutionary sense for women to reduce their interest in sex from time to time. During the early days of human beings, people lived "close to the knuckle," he said, and when times were tight, pregnancy took up a lot of limited resources and put women at risk. "If women did not regulate their sexual interest, they would be weeded off," he said.

Although times have changed, our biology has not shifted nearly so quickly, he said. Consequently, it's easy for life's stressors - such as financial concerns, fatigue from a stressful day - to interfere with a woman's taste for sex, Laumann noted.

During the study, Laumann and his team interviewed 27,500 men and women between the ages of 40 and 80 about sexual habits and problems. They report their findings in the journal Urology.

Laumann explained that previous research has found a similar rate of sexual problems among younger men and women, "so the numbers for this older generation were by no means very large, by comparison."

Furthermore, the majority of older adults - between 60 and 68 percent - said they were "in favor" of treatments that help older people enjoy sex. However, despite this enthusiasm, most people say that doctors do not ask them about sexual problems, Laumann noted.

The purpose of this study was to document sexual problems in older adults, to help encourage doctors to recognize the problems and take them seriously, Laumann said. "There's clearly a lot that can be done," he added.

The study was funded by Pfizer, the maker of Viagra.

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