A recent study in female sexuality has concluded that many aspects of female sexual function undergo significant changes during pre-menopausal years, most importantly that female sexual desire seems to decrease with age and that women who change up their sexual partners report higher sexual satisfaction than those who maintain the same relationship over time.
The unique study involved 2173 women in Finland who participated in two questionnaires on female sexual function (FSF), one in 2006 and the other in 2013.
Derived from what is known as the Female Sexual Function Index, the questionnaires attempted to gain a snapshot of a woman’s current sexual behaviour and satisfaction level, with questions such as “Over the past four weeks, how often did you feel sexual desire or interest?” “How often have you been satisfied with your arousal (excitement) during sexual activity or intercourse during the past four weeks? and “When you had sexual stimulation or intercourse, how difficult was it for you to reach orgasm (climax)?”
Many past studies have compared women’s sexual functioning over the period of years straddling menopause, where commonly noted changes in FSF such as a decline in sexual desire, an increase in sex-related pain and a decrease in arousal and orgasmic function have been attributed to hormonal changes and other physiological factors.
The new research focuses on the pre-menopausal years, with researchers determining that, overall, study participants did report significantly less desire, less arousal, lubrication and sexual satisfaction seven years after the initial assessment, with one area of difference: their ability to orgasm. Consistently, women reported higher orgasm function seven years later.
Researchers also found an association between relationship status and changes in FSF over the seven-year period, in that women who had the same partner in 2013 as in 2006 reported less satisfaction with their sexual functioning, while those who had a different partner in 2013 than in 2006 reported higher sexual satisfaction.
“FSF showed to be considerably variable over a time-frame of 7 years,” says the study’s authors. “And relationship status played a key role in predicting temporal stability and between-domain effects in FSF over time.”
The study found that women who were in the same relationship over the seven-year period reported less desire, less arousal and less lubrication in 2013 than they did in 2006, whereas women who had a different relationship in 2013 reported less desire and arousal but higher satisfaction.
Women who were single either at both points in time or just in 2013 also reported less desire, pain and satisfaction at the seven year mark.
Researchers stated that in 2013, 44.4 per cent of study participants were in the same relationship as previously, 40.2 per cent reported being in new relationships and 15.5 per cent reported being single in 2013.
The research team sees their results, specifically those concerning the impact of relationship status on sexual functioning, as informing counselling and psychotherapy in female sexual function and sexual disfunction (FSD). “Our study suggests that changes in relationship status are of relevance when assessing changes in FSF over time, indicating that psychobehavioural treatment interventions for FSDs should take partner-specific factors into account,” say the study’s authors.
The research is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.