CDE Working Paper 2016-03

The Role of Hormones in Sexual Expression in Later Life.

John DeLamater and Rengin Aktar

Abstract

Objective. To assess the role of hormones relative to other individual and couple characteristics on sexual expression of US men and women between the ages of 57 and 85.

Methods. Using data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, we examine the relationship of salivary testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone to three measures of sexual expression. Regression analyses included measures of individual mental health and physical health, attitudes, and quality of relationship measures.

Results. Estrogen levels decline significantly among both men and women from 57 to 85. There are significant linear (positive) and curvilinear relationships between estrogen levels and sexual desire for men. There is a significant curvilinear relationship between progesterone levels and masturbation for men. Greater sexual desire is associated with younger age, good emotional health, physical activity, and being in a relationship. More frequent masturbation is associated with younger age, higher levels of desire, and less liberal attitudes toward sex. More frequent sexual activity is associated with younger age and greater desire.

Discussion. Hormones have some influence on the sexual functioning of men. Influences on the functioning of both men and women include sexual desire, physical health and activity, emotional health and whether one is in a relationship.