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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK
Sex a turn-off for many UK women
Couple being intimate
Middle-aged British women are less likely to have sex than their European peers
Sex is less important for middle-aged British women than their European counterparts, a study has shown.

Women over 50 were quizzed in various European countries, and the British came bottom of the table every time.

They were found to be the least interested in sex, in a survey of 1,800 women aged between 50 and 60.

Reduced sex drive is a multi-factorial issue

Dr Edward Morris
consultant
They were also the least sexually active, and the most likely to suffer menopausal side-effects.

But there seemed to be little dissatisfaction with their lot, with British women rating their well-being as slightly above average.

And just 11% of the women had ever sought treatment for reduced sex drive, with 2% asking for it specifically.

The findings were presented to the World Congress of Sexology in Paris.

Sex drive

A quarter of British women said they had sex once a month or less, more than in any other country studied.

British women were also the least likely to have sex five times a month.

Only 22% reported enjoying conjugal relations that often, compared to a third each of French, Swiss, German women and 27% of Italians.

Half of British women said they had seen a drop in their sex drive recently, and two thirds said they had become less interested in sex over the last five years.

The loss of libido made half feel old and 35% unhappy.

But in comparison, 61% of Swiss and 54% of German women said they had never experienced a reduction in libido.

Hormones play a key role in the ability of the body to feel and to perceive sexual stimuli

Dr Rossella Napi
University of Pavia
Around 80% of women - but 65% in the UK - said it was "very important" to them to maintain a satisfying sex life.

Over three-quarters saw sex as an important part of their relationship with their husband or partner.

The survey into women's sexual behaviour and menopausal experiences was carried out by research company Wirthin for UK-based contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy company Organon.

In addition to having the least sex, British women seemed to be the most likely to suffer menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, sleeplessness, irritability, depression and genital dryness.

Doctors at the conference highlighted ways of tackling low sex drive in middle aged women, including the role played by hormones.

Erotic fantasies

They said hormone treatments such as tibolone (Livial) which used male sex hormones called androgens, rather than female hormones, were more successful in increasing libido.

Dr Rossella Napi, assistant professor in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Pavia in Italy, said libido was "the real engine of sexual function."

She said in one trial, tibolone helped menopausal women to be sexually aroused by erotic fantasies.

She said: "Hormones play a key role in the ability of the body to feel and to perceive sexual stimuli."

Dr Edward Morris, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at Norfolk and Norwich Health Care Trust, told the meeting: "Reduced sex drive is a multi-factorial issue.

"If you have reduced sex drive that's coming from the brain and you have adverse effects on the genital tract from the menopause, the two together conspire to have a negative effect on quality of life."

Dori Stern, UK director and vice-president of Wirthin World Wide, said: "Overall, what we learn about women's attitude to sex and their own behaviour in the survey is that the majority of women in their 50s are having very active sex lives, and almost half are having sex more than four times a month."

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