A quarter (24%) of Americans between the ages of 45 and 65 say they are dissatisfied with their sex lives, according to the new AP-LifeGoesStrong.com Poll from The Associated Press (www.ap.org) and LifeGoesStrong.com (www.lifegoesstrong.com), a popular lifestyle website for baby boomers.
That level of discontent is higher than that of any generation – young or old. Merely 12 percent of 18-29-year-olds say they are unhappy with their sex lives, and just 17 percent of seniors who are 66-plus.
Bearing the brunt of the problems, early boomers, between the ages of 45 and 55, are experiencing difficulty in their relationships. Nearly half of men in this age bracket (48%) complain that their partners do not want to have sex as often as they do. In comparison, only 28 percent of adult men under 45 make that complaint.
"We worry so much about teens and sex, but this poll indicates a need for a call to action for these boomers to become more sexually literate," said acclaimed sexual therapist, professor and author Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who is a guest blogger for LifeGoesStrong.com and helped design the survey's questions. "It is not necessary for a couple to be in total synch when it comes to sex, but if a couple's appetites grow too far apart, then that indicates that there is not enough communication about sex in the relationship."
Adding to the early boomers' compatibility issues in the bedroom, the survey found that there is a mismatch between men and women ages 45 to 55 over how they view the role of sex in a relationship. Sixty-one percent of men in this age group say that sex is a critical part of a healthy relationship, while 53 percent of women in the same age group say it is not crucial.
Wait a few years and the compatibility news gets better, but the heat index takes a turn for the worse. When it comes to late boomers, ages 56 to 65, there isn't as much disagreement – majorities of both men and women say that couples can have a strong relationship without sexual activity (59% of men and 69% of women).
Sexual Harmony Within Other Age Groups:
Younger generations seem to be faring far better between the sheets. Before age 45, there aren't many differences between men and women about how important sex is in a relationship. Sixty-three percent of men under age 45, and 62 percent of women of the same age group, say that sexual activity is an essential part of a solid romantic relationship.
After age 65, there are also not many differences between men and women about how important sex is in a relationship – about two thirds of both men and women say that couples can have a strong relationship without sexual activity.
The Doctor's Office:
Boomers have been more open to speaking with a medical doctor about sexual issues than their older and younger counterparts, with over a third doing so (34%). Only a quarter of those over 66 were inclined to talk about such matters at the doctor's office.
Underscoring the importance of open communication and getting medical advice on sexual issues, Dr. Westheimer explained: "Our bodies change as we get older, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. What's critical is that we learn about those changes and work with our partners and medical professionals to overcome any obstacles we might face. If you can do that, you can be assured a happy and healthy sex life for years to come!"
According to the survey, 40 percent of men between the ages of 45 and 65 report having had problems with sexual functioning, but only about half (49%) of those men have ever received any medical treatment. More men over age 65 have reported experiencing problems with sexual functioning (45%), while fewer men under age 45 said the same (16%).
Of those who have received treatment for sexual functioning problems, about three in 10 say they kept it a private matter between themselves and their doctors.
The AP-LifeGoesStrong.com Poll of the boomer generation about sex and romance was conducted October 1-10, 2010 by Knowledge Networks of Menlo Park, California. It involved online interviews with 945 adults between the ages of 45 and 65, as well as companion interviews with an additional 587 adults of other age groups, ages 18-44 and over 65 years of age. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all adults, 3.9 percentage points for adults ages 45-65.
The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, which uses a probability-based design. Respondents to the survey were first selected randomly for KnowledgePanel using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed for this survey online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.