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AARP Survey Shows Sexual Health Important Component of Overall Well Being For Midlife and Beyond

Sexual health is an essential element of the quality of life of adults 45+. AARP's recent study, Sexuality at Midlife and Beyond, updates an AARP survey from 1999, and confirms that relationships and sexuality remain at least as important, if not more so, than almost six years ago. Findings from the study are being explored in the July/August issue of AARP The Magazine -

The 2004 study focuses on almost 1,700 adults ages 45 and older and measures attitudes and other factors affecting their health, sexuality, and quality of life. It offers frank viewpoints and revelations of three-quarters of the 78 million Baby Boomers - women and men ages 45-59 - as well as individuals in their 60's, 70's, and older.

What has changed since the 1999 study? For starters there is more use of sex-enhancing drugs and greater openness to speaking to health professionals about this sensitive health topic.

  • More people now report consulting health professionals than any other single source of information (37% up from 26% in 1999). Books were the top choice in 1999 and now place second at 30%.
  • More than twice as many men as in 1999 report ever using some type of drugs or treatments to address problems with sexual performance (22%, up from 10% in 1999).
  • More respondents now agree that sexual activity is a critical part of a good relationship - 60% compared to 55% in 1999.

"If I could highlight one significant change from over the past five years, it would be the greater willingness of midlife and older adults to discuss sex as a health issue with their health professionals," said Linda Fisher, research director at AARP. "Professionals have long known that sexual dysfunction is not only a major problem for relationships and mental health, but can be a marker of life-threatening physical health issues, especially heart disease."

"We also know that healthy and physically active respondents are generally more satisfied with their sex lives than those with a medical condition. Thirty-one percent (31%) of men said better health for themselves would increase their satisfaction with their sex life and 23% said better health for their partner would increase their satisfaction," said Fisher.

And speaking of partners, there has been a "re-awakening" for many women. Thanks to their male partners' use of drugs women in all age groups reported that their own sexual satisfaction was enhanced. "We found that women are pleased with their mates' newfound ardor, debunking the cultural stereotype that older women aren't welcoming of intimate and sexual relationships," said Hugh Delehanty, editor in chief of AARP The Magazine.

However, despite many respondents' progressive feelings about sex, most remained steadfastly traditional when it came to fidelity. More than 95% of all respondents said that they did not approve of any form of extramarital sex without a partner's consent.

They also agree with their Mom and Dad that today's popular culture puts too much emphasis on sex.

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