A study that was presented at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society showed that a woman’s sexual satisfaction seems to have a benefit (besides the obvious benefits of good sex): a higher purpose in life.
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researchers tracked sexual satisfaction in 728 women, ages 40-65, in a study that lasted five years. Participants in the study answered yearly questionnaires on their menopausal status, health-related quality of life, social support, and hormone therapy use. The the second and fourth years, they also answered questions that had to do with their enjoyment of and engagement in sexually intimate activities like oral sex, sexual intercourse, hugging, and kissing. The Life Engagement Scale was completed by all of the participants — it’s a six statement test where the test takers are asked to either agree or disagree with each statement made to assess how engaged you are in your life with statements such as, “I have lots of reasons for living” or “There is not enough purpose in my life.”
The researchers found that those who reported levels of sexual satisfaction that were high and enjoyment in sexually intimate activities also reported a higher sense of purpose in life. The study also found that these women has better emotional well-being, more social support, and less vaginal dryness, on average.
The study did not show a connection between the frequency of sexually intimate activities and a higher sense of purpose in life, though. Also, hormone therapy did not significantly have an impact on the women’s sexual enjoyment or engagement in life. “Hormone therapy hasn’t been a factor in any study that’s looked at this, actually,” reveals lead author Beth A. Prairie, MD, M.P.H., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Does hormone therapy make any difference at all? Probably—but the effect size is probably so small that when you compare it to the other things going on in a woman’s life, it’s minimal.”
What this means for midlife women is that “sexual function is intimately bound to worldview,” wrote the authors of the study. But they said it will take additional research to explain whether sexual relationships that are enjoyable lead to an improved sense of life purpose in women, or whether women with a higher sense of purpose also have more satisfying sex.