Financial stress and sex

Americans who are 45+ are engaging in sex less often — and with less satisfaction — according to a major new survey by AARP. This is despite the fact that they claim to be more open to sex outside of marriage than they were a decade ago.

For the survey 1,670 people 45 and older were asked to complete a detailed questionnaire on sexual attitudes and practices. AARP, which represents approximately 40 million Americans over 50, conducted similar surveys in 1999 and 2004.

In the most recent survey, 28 per cent of participants said they had sex once a week, and 40 per cent said they engaged in intercourse at least once per month. Overall, sexual activity for both groups was down by about 10 per cent from 2004.

This is despite the fact that people’s attitudes on sex outside of marriage have changed dramatically since 1999 — when 41 per cent said they believed non-marital sex was wrong. In the new survey, this number plunged to 22 per cent.

And when asked if they were satisfied with their sex lives, 43 per cent of respondents in the new survey said yes. This is down from 51 per cent in 2004.

Money stress saps sex

So what explains the decline in sexual activity and satisfaction — marital or not? Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sexologist at the University of Washington in Seattle and AARP’s sex and relationship expert, says it may come down to money.

“Financial worries tend to seep into all parts of a couple’s life together,” she says in an article on the AARP website. “It’s hard for some people to feel warm and sexy when they are afraid of losing their home — or they have already lost their job! People complain of feeling distant, disconnected, and emotionally bound up.”

Research has long shown that financial stress can sap sex and libido, and the recent economic and unemployment woes have hit many boomers hard. Not surprisingly, the AARP survey indicated that 26 per cent of men believe that having better finances (and a healthier bank account) would lead to a better sex life.

The great stress reducer

Paradoxically, while stress can zap us of our sex drive, sex can also be a great stress reliever — and less stress, in turn, can lead to more sex. Research has shown that sex and physical intimacy are linked to less negativity, lower baseline blood pressure, a release of endorphins and other feel-good hormones, as well as a calmer and more positive response to stressful situations.

Other important health benefits of frequent sex include a reduced risk for certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. (See 10 health benefits of sex.)

Sources: AARP; Associated Press Online; Journal of Sexual Medicine;

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