Less than a quarter of postmenopausal UK women are sexually active and a mere 3% are happy with their sex life, according to a new study.
Researchers at Sussex Health Outcomes, Research & Education in Cancer (SHORE-C), based at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) analysed free text comments made on a sexual activity questionnaire by more than 4,000 women taking part in an ovarian cancer screening trial (UKCTOCS).
Four major classification themes were identified: partner availability, physical and sexual health, mental wellbeing and interpersonal relationships.
Despite 65% of women having partners, findings showed that only around a third of these women were sexually active. Just 3% referred to positive sexual experiences, yet only 6% had sought help for their sexual problems.
The main reason for a lack of sexual activity was not having a partner, with around 1,000 of participants having been widowed. Health issues in later life were another factor – 27% identified a partner’s medical condition and 13.5% a partner’s sexual dysfunction as having an impact. Meanwhile 18% identified their own physical health and 12.5% identified menopause-related symptoms as affecting their sex life.
Dr Helena Harder, lead author of the paper and Research Fellow at BSMS, said: “Women spend a large part of their life postmenopausal, and a healthy sex life should be part of that, as we know that it contributes to overall wellbeing and happiness.
“Women may feel embarrassed about seeking help around sexual issues, and healthcare professionals may also be uncomfortable bringing this up this. But our results have identified a definite need for further training for healthcare professionals so they are better able to support postmenopausal women in overcoming barriers to a happy, healthy sex life.”
Professor Dame Lesley Fallowfield, study lead and Professor of Psycho Oncology at BSMS, adds: “It is important to recognise the need for the partners to seek help too, as demonstrated by our research. Men can also feel ashamed to seek professional help and admit to having sexual difficulties, but this is imperative if couples want to achieve a happy and healthy sex life.”
The study was published in the journal Menopause. Read the study here or watch our video below with the researchers on this study to find out more.