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A higher sense of purpose in life is associated with sexual enjoyment in midlife women.

journal contribution
posted on 01.08.2011, 00:00 by Beth A. Prairie, Michael ScheierMichael Scheier, Karen A. Matthews, Chung-Chou H. Chang, Rachel Hess

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to understand the association between sense of purpose in life and sexual well-being in a cohort of midlife women.

METHODS: Participation in partnered sexual activities and indicators of sexual well-being (the engagement in and enjoyment of sexually intimate activities) were measured in a longitudinal cohort of 677 eligible women aged 40 to 65 years. At a single time point, women completed the Life Engagement Test, a measure of life purpose. Univariable and multivariable mixed models were used to assess the association between the Life Engagement Test and longitudinal sexual well-being.

RESULTS: A higher sense of purpose in life was associated with higher levels of enjoyment (coefficient = 2.89, P < 0.001) but not with participation in partnered sexual activity (coefficient = 0.49, P = 0.63) or engagement in partnered sexually intimate activities (coefficient = 1.0, P = 0.30). Participation was associated with younger age, lower body mass index, being married, reporting any vaginal dryness, and better emotional well-being. Hormone therapy use approached, but did not reach significance in association with participation, with P = 0.05. Engagement in sexually intimate activities was associated with younger age, more social support, and better emotional well-being. Higher levels of enjoyment were associated with more social support, better emotional well-being, and less vaginal dryness. Menopause status was not associated with engagement or enjoyment, and only being 5 years or more postmenopausal was related to decreased participation.

CONCLUSIONS: Higher sense of purpose in life is associated with more enjoyment of sexually intimate activities, adjusting for other known factors that influence sexual well-being and independent of demographic factors and menopause or hormone therapy status.