Low Sex Drive Is Not Always a Normal Part of the Aging Process

Having less sex is only a problem if you miss it.
Many sex therapists counseling older people hesitate to label a drop in sex drive a "dysfunction" when it may well just be an ordinary part of the aging process. That's the view of Joy Davidson, PhD, a New York City–based psychologist and board member of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. "Not everyone perceives an age-related sexual slowdown as a problem—nor should they."

Experts advise, however, that a drop in libido at any age merits a trip to the doctor. While it's true that sex drive can slow down with age in both men and women, many older people enjoy active sex lives into their 70s and beyond. In a 1999 AARP survey, 70% of all respondents who had partners had sex at least once a month. "For people who have had very active and positive sex lives, age-related hormone changes can present a real challenge," says Davidson.

There may also be broader health implications when an older person experiences a major drop in libido. Here are some conditions you and your doctor should be on the lookout for.

  • Heart disease: Sex drive changes, especially in conjunction with erectile dysfunction (ED), could be a red flag for serious medical conditions, such as a heart problem.
  • Depression: Aging can change your body's levels of serotonin, which helps regulate mood.
  • Prescription drugs: Take a close look at the contents of your medicine cabinet. Are you taking anything that cites sex drive problems as a side effect?
  • Hormonal changes: Low libido may be a result of menopause if you're female, or in older men it may stem from hormonal changes that are sometimes called "andropause." In these cases, libido may respond to medical treatment if you choose to pursue that route.
  • Erectile dysfunction: It's common in older men and experts say it can cause a lowered libido in both partners.

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Lead writer: Louise Sloan
Last Updated: April 14, 2008

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