I hope my colleague Heather Dillaway feels at least at little vindicated when she reads this: A new study in the Journal of Health Psychology reports that social and psychological factors have the biggest influence upon women´s sexual behavior during menopause, rather than biological changes such as declining hormone levels. While most published research on menopause–especially about sex and sexuality with respect to menopause–is conducted within a biomedical framework, Sharron Hinchliff, Merryn Gott, and Christine Ingleton talked to women about their experiences. (Radical!)
They found that almost all of the women in their study had experienced changes in their sex lives, but they attributed these changes to external factors, such as caring for ill or elderly relatives, low sexual desire from their partners, issues of relationship quality, as well as to perceived changes in levels of hormones. (I appreciate the researchers’ qualifier of perceived changes, as most women never have their hormone levels measured.)
The researchers concluded that women go through many lifestyle changes at mid-life, only some of which are biological. Psychological and social factors, as well as the increasing medicalization of menopause, affect their sexuality just as powerfully.
Somehow, this study isn’t getting anywhere near the publicity of the ‘new blood test for menopause’ study received last week.