JOURNAL ARTICLE

Sexual function in the late postmenopause: a decade of follow-up in a population-based cohort of Australian women

Risa A M Lonnèe-Hoffmann, Lorraine Dennerstein, Philippe Lehert, Cassandra Szoeke
Journal of Sexual Medicine 2014, 11 (8): 2029-38
24888566

INTRODUCTION: There is a paucity of longitudinal studies assessing sexual function of women in the late postmenopause.

AIM: This study aims to describe sexual function of women in the late postmenopause and to investigate change from early postmenopause.

METHODS: Cross-sectional analysis of 2012/13 and longitudinal analysis from 2002/04 of the population based, Australian cohort of the Women's Healthy Ageing Project, applying validated instruments: Short Personal Experience Questionnaire (SPEQ), Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Geriatric Depression Scale, and California Verbal Learning Test.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sexual activity, SPEQ, and FSDS.

RESULTS: Two hundred thirty women responded (follow-up rate 53%), mean age was 70 years (range 64-77), 49.8% were sexually active. FSDS scores showed more distress for sexually active women (8.3 vs. 3.2, P<0.001). For 23 (23%) sexually active and for five (7%) inactive women, the diagnosis of female sexual dysfunction could be made. After adjustment, available partner (odds ratio [OR] 4.31, P<0.001), no history of depression (OR 0.49, P=0.036), moderate compared with no alcohol consumption (OR 2.43, P=0.019), and better cognitive function score (OR1.09, P=0.050) were significantly predictive for sexual activity. Compared with early postmenopause, 18% more women had ceased sexual activity. For women maintaining their sexual activity through to late postmenopause (n=82), SPEQ and FSDS scores had not changed significantly, but frequency of sexual activity had decreased (P=0.003) and partner difficulties had increased (P=0.043). [Correction added on 10 July 2014, after first online publication: Mean age of respondents was added.]

CONCLUSIONS: In late postmenopause, half of the women were sexually active. Most important predictors were partner availability and no history of depression. However, being sexually active or having a partner were associated with higher levels of sexual distress. Compared with early postmenopause, sexual function scores had declined overall but were stable for women maintaining sexual activity. Further research into causes of sexual distress and reasons for sexual inactivity at this reproductive stage is warranted.

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