summarizes the demographic and health characteristics of the survey respondents. These characteristics closely match those of respondents in the 2002 Current Population Survey28
and recent national studies of health (e.g., the Health and Retirement Study29
Characteristics of 3005 Survey Respondents.*
The likelihood of being sexually active declined steadily with age and was uniformly lower among women than among men (). In addition, the likelihood of being sexually active was positively associated with self−reported health (). The odds ratio for being sexually active among those who reported their health to be “poor” or “fair” as compared with those reporting “very good” or “excellent” health was 0.21 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.14 to 0.32) for men and 0.36 (95% CI, 0.25 to 0.51) for women.
Prevalence of Sexual Activity, Behaviors, and Problems.
Prevalence of Sexual Activity with a Partner, According to Age Group and Health Status
At any given age, women were less likely than men to be in a marital or other intimate relationship, and this difference increased dramatically with age (). Of the 1198 men and 815 women in a relationship, only 3 men and 5 women reported that the relationship was with someone of the same sex. shows the percentage of respondents with a spousal or other intimate relationship who reported being sexually active; among those who were not in a relationship, only 22% of men and 4% of women reported being sexually active in the previous year. Among men and women of the same age, men with a spousal or other intimate relationship were more likely to be sexually active than women with such a relationship. However, the difference in the rates of sexual activity between men and women was considerably smaller among those with a spousal or intimate relationship; this difference reflects, in part, the disparity in ages between men and women within current relationships. Among all current marital and intimate relationships in the sample, the mean (±SD) difference in age between male and female partners was 3.2±5.7 years.
Among respondents who were sexually active, the frequency of sex was lower among those who were 75 to 85 years of age than among younger persons (). However, even in this oldest−age group, 54% of sexually active persons reported having sex at least two to three times per month, and 23% reported having sex once a week or more. Fifty−eight percent of sexually active respondents in the youngest−age group reported engaging in oral sex, as compared with 31% in the oldest age group.
The prevalence of masturbation, like that of sexual activity with a partner, was lower among respondents at older ages and was higher among men than among women. Poorer health was also associated with a lower likelihood of masturbation among women (). Fifty−two percent of men and 25% of women with a spousal or other intimate relationship reported masturbating in the previous 12 months, as compared with 55% of men and 23% of women without a current spousal or other intimate relationship.
Women were more likely to rate sex as being “not at all important” (35%, as compared with 13% of men). A total of 41% of respondents in the oldest−age group rated sex as being “not at all important,” as compared with 25% of respondents in the middle group and 15% of respondents in the youngest group. Respondents who were not sexually active were also more likely to give this answer (48%, as compared with 5% of respondents who were sexually active).
lists the prevalence of sexual problems among respondents who were sexually active and the associations of these problems with the respondents’ age and self−reported health status. Approximately half of all respondents (both men and women) reported having at least one bothersome sexual problem, and almost one third of men and women reported having at least two bothersome sexual problems. Among men, the most prevalent sexual problems and the corresponding percentages of those who were bothered by them were difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection (37% and 90%, respectively), lack of interest in sex (28% and 65%), climaxing too quickly (28% and 71%), anxiety about performance (27% and 75%), and inability to climax (20% and 73%). For women, the most common sexual problems and the percentages of those who were bothered by them were lack of interest in sex (43% and 61%, respectively), difficulty with lubrication (39% and 68%), inability to climax (34% and 59%), finding sex not pleasurable (23% and 64%), and pain (most commonly felt at the vagina during entry) (17% and 97%). As compared with respondents who rated their health as being excellent, very good, or good, respondents who rated their health as being fair or poor had a higher prevalence of several problems, including difficulty with erection or lubrication, pain, and lack of pleasure. Women with diabetes were less likely to be sexually active than women without diabetes (). Diabetes was also associated with a higher likelihood of difficulty with erection among men and a lower likelihood of masturbation among both men and women.
Sexual Activity, Behaviors, and Problems Associated with Chronic Health Conditions in Men and Women.*
Among all respondents with a spousal or other intimate relationship who had been sexually inactive for 3 months or longer, the most commonly reported reason for sexual inactivity was the male partner’s physical health (). A total of 55% of men and 64% of women reported this reason for a lack of sexual activity. Overall, women were more likely than men to report lack of interest as a reason for sexual inactivity; this was especially true among respondents without a current relationship (51% of women vs. 24% of men).
Reasons for Lack of Sexual Activity among Survey Respondents Who Had Not Had Sex during the Previous 3 Months.*
Fourteen percent of men and 1% of women reported taking prescription or nonprescription medication or supplements to improve sexual function in the previous 12 months. Overall, 38% of men and 22% of women reported having discussed sex with a physician since the age of 50 years.