Researchers at Sussex Health Outcomes, Research & Education in Cancer (SHORE-C), based at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), run by the universities of Brighton and Sussex, analysed free text comments made on a sexual activity questionnaire by more than 4,000 women taking part in an ovarian cancer screening trial, the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS).
Four major classification themes were identified: partner availability, physical and sexual health, mental wellbeing and interpersonal relationships.
Despite 65 per cent of women having partners, findings showed that only around a third of these women were sexually active. Just 3 per cent referred to positive sexual experiences, yet only 6 per cent had sought help for their sexual problems.
The main reason for a lack of sexual activity was not having a partner, with around 1,000 of participants having been widowed. Health issues in later life were another factor – 27 per cent identified a partner’s medical condition and 13.5 per cent a partner’s sexual dysfunction as having an impact. Meanwhile 18 per cent identified their own physical health and 12.5 per cent identified menopause-related symptoms as affecting their sex life.
Dr Helena Harder, lead author of the paper and Research Fellow at BSMS, said: “Women spend a large part of their life postmenopausal, and a healthy sex life should be part of that, as we know that it contributes to overall wellbeing and happiness.