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11/18/2016 01:32 pm ET

A Low Libido May Be More Common In Older Women Than You Think

As women age, they often harbor negative feelings about sex.

Older women who have robust sex lives tend to enjoy lower blood pressure, fewer migraines, and a myriad other health benefits. Yet despite the perks, many older women harbor negative feelings about sex, according to a new Australian study.

Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne discovered that of the 1,548 women aged 65 to 79 involved in the study, 88 percent of those surveyed over age 70 said they have little or no sexual desire, while 15.5 percent said it causes them distress. The presence of both low desire and related distress is known as hypoactive sexual desire dysfunction (HSDD), as reported in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

So what’s a possible solution? For one thing, the vaginal dryness that’s often linked to sexual discomfort ― and therefore a reduced interest in sex ― can be treated with low dose vaginal estrogen, senior author Susan R. Davis of Monash University in Melbourne told Reuters. Although vaginal dryness can occur in women of all ages, it affects over half of post-menopausal women. 

In addition, older women can benefit by discussing any sexual concerns with their doctor. Davis emphasized the need for health care professionals to bring up sex-related topics with their older women patients, too.

A previous study out of the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center underscored the challenge older women face when it comes to getting the help they need from their doctors to solve sexually-related problems. That study of more than 500 women aged 40 to 75 found that 52 percent had not discussed sexual concerns with their healthcare providers. Of those who did have the discussion, 70 percent said they had to initiate the conversation.

Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director, said that the new Australian study demonstrates the need for healthcare providers to have “honest and open discussions with their patients as they age with regard to desire, mood, vaginal dryness, and pelvic floor issues to determine whether these factors are affecting a woman’s desire or ability to be sexual.”

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