Women's perception of sexuality around the menopause: Outcomes of a European telephone survey

Rossella E. Nappi, Esme A. Nijland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Objective: Women's attitudes and experience towards sexuality around the menopause were investigated in Europe by a telephone survey. In addition, it was qualified to what extent reduced sex drive and vaginal dryness affect personal life, taking into account cultural differences. Study design: A survey on 1805 post-menopausal women (age range: 50-60 years), experiencing at least one menopausal symptom (hot flushes or sleeplessness) or not menstruating for at least 1 year, was conducted in six European countries (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland) by computer-assisted telephone interviewing. A structured interview analysed menopausal profile, sexuality-related menopausal symptoms, mental well-being and attitudes towards sexuality. Results: Apart from hot flushes or sleeplessness, women particularly experienced sexual symptoms, such as reduced sexual desire and vaginal pain/dryness during the menopausal transition: one third (34%) of the women mentioned experiencing a reduced sex drive whereas one half (53%) of the women noticed that they became less interested in sex in spite of the majority of the sample reporting finding it important to maintain an active sex life (71%). Sex is experienced as an important part of the relationship with a partner, especially for Italian and Swiss women and ageing seems to play a critical role in sexual functioning, particularly for Italian and Dutch women. A general positive attitude toward sex was supported by the evidence that almost half of the study sample reported having sexual contact at least four times a month. Mental and sexual well-being interfered with self-worth and enjoyment of life, as did vaginal discomfort. Conclusions: These data suggest that European middle-aged women experience the menopause as a process that brings about mood and sexual changes able to impair their personal life. However, cultural values and health beliefs influence perception of sexuality at the time of the menopause and will also influence the need for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-16
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
Volume137
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008

Keywords

  • Europe
  • Menopause
  • Mental well-being
  • Sexuality
  • Telephone survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Reproductive Medicine

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