Older Adults and the Stereotype of Declined Sexual Desire by Johanna Christensen


On the topic of whether older adults’ sexual desires decrease or increase as he or she ages, it is consistently found that sexual libido and activity decreases.  Although, research is sparse and findings are still limited to the 2/3 world population of older adults (Malakouti et. al., 2012). Studies large and small have all indicated that this particular stereotype is true but limited data suggests that some older adults, individuals who are on the younger side of the spectrum, do not have much of a decline in sexual desire.  Low sexual desire in older adults is common but also can be symptom of another underlying illness, such as cancer or diabetes.  In my research, I found that there are many variables as to why sexual desire in elder adults’ declines, some obvious and some not so much.

In a study posted on The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that little is known about sexuality among older adults in specifically the United States.  In a study population sample of community-dwelling persons aged 57 to 85, from households across the United States, researchers conducted in-home interviews.  During the visits, all participants were measured anthropometrically, specifically checking blood, salivary, vaginal mucosal specimens, and physical and sensory functions.  One bit of research showed that older age and poor health are found to be negatively associated with sexuality (Lindau et. al., 2007).  In addition to these measures, a complete history on each older adult’s marital and cohabitating history from the last five years was acquired.  The researchers intended to gain estimates of how prevalent sexual activity, behavior, and problems were in the older population.  Additionally, the research anticipated to find a pattern between sexuality and a variety of health conditions.  The conclusion on this specific research supports the stereotype that sexual desire declines in older adults.

In a place much different from the United States, researchers conducted a study on 390 elder adults that were recruited from retirement organizations in Tehran, Iran.  These participants were able to read and write and live independently enough that sexual activity was a possibility.  Questionnaires were provided to those who consented to participate, with questions concerning the individual’s demographic, sexual functioning of both women and men, and general health.  In result, researchers found that at least one medical disease was reported by 64.98% of men and 79.1% of women. Additionally, it was noted that 57% of Iranian men found that sexual activities were important in their older adult life, while only 17% of Iranian women felt the same (Malakouti et. al. 2012).  This positively correlates with the data found that 8.5% of older Iranian adult women and 60% of older Iranian adult men found pleasure during sexual experiences.  Lastly, the researchers studied mental health and sexual desires in Iranian older men and women.  There was a significant difference between those who disclosed a mental illness and those who did not in sexual drive.  I believe this information to be correct because mental and physical illness affects sexual desires of those old and young alike.

If one were to look at sexual desire in older adults from a different, more scientific angle, an individual would find that aging in both men and women is progressive.  Older adult men studied in the United Kingdom have progressively, but individually variable declined in their testosterone production, with more than 20% of healthy older men exhibiting levels well below the range of a younger man (Kaufman & Vermeulen, 2007).  Decreased testosterone is linked to the decline of sexual desire in older adult males, which scientists call similar to hypogonadism; the loss or reduction of hormone secretion or physiological activity of the gonads.  Although, my research has fully supported the stereotype of a decline in sexual desire in older adults but in this article, researchers found that borderline androgen, a male hormone, deficiency cannot be reliably diagnosed in the older adults because “normal” androgen levels in men of all ages have not been indisputably established (Kaufman & Vermeulen, 2007).

My research and own experience has lead me to the conclusion that the stereotype of sexual desire declining in older adults is valid and factually proven.  While there has not been a plethora of research conducted in any country specifically, little bits of research, pieced together from all over the world have pointed those concerned about the decline of sexual desire in older adults in the direction that it is true.  Some researchers have disproven some of the research done by others because it is claimed that hormone levels in men of all ages have no concrete evidence of what is normal, for all men have very different levels with no pattern of what exactly is considered healthy and what is not.  In my own beliefs and experiences, I find that sexual desire in older adults are mostly declined, as the stereotype claims.  I have been told that sexual activities become better as one ages but that does not claim that the desire for it is steady.  Overall, I conclude that the stereotype is factual and well supported by the research that has been done.













Lindau, S., Schumm, P., Laumann, E., Levinson, W., O’Muircheartaigh, C., & Waite, L. (2007, August 23). A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older Adults in the United States — NEJM. Retrieved February 05, 2017, from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa067423#t=article

Malakouti, S. Salehi, M., Nojomi, M,. Zandi, T., & Eftekhar, M. (2012). Sexual Functioning among the eldery population in Tehran, Iran. Journal of Sex & Martial Therapy, 38(4), 365-277. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2011.628438

Santos-Iglesias, P., Byers, E. S., & Moglia, R. (2016). Sexual well-being of older men and women. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 25(2), 86-98. doi: 10.3138/cjhs.252-A4

Jean M. Kaufman, Alex Vermeulen; The Decline of Androgen Levels in Elderly Men and Its Clinical and Therapeutic Implications. 2007; 26 (6): 833-876. doi: 10.1210/er.2004-0013


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