(NEWSER) – Sex is important to most middle-aged women, a fact established by a new study in the journal Menopause, which found that 75% of 1,390 middle-aged women reported sexual functioning to be moderately to extremely important.
But roughly 20 months before menopause hit, these women reported a "notable decline in sexual function"; that decline continued for a full year after their final period and then persisted at a more gradual rate over the next five years, reports Psych Central.
The same turned out to be true for women following (but not leading up to) a hysterectomy. "There has been much debate" on the topic of decline due to menopause and aging, the study's lead author says. "Our findings support that menopause has a negative effect."
It's worth noting that the study relies on self-reporting, but the researchers say they found that race/ethnicity appears to play a role.
Compared to white women, African-American women noted a significantly smaller decline, while women of Japanese descent noted a much greater decline.
"This study highlights the need for health-care providers to have open conversations with their patients about their sexual issues, because there are many options for women to help maintain or improve their sexual lives as they transition to and beyond menopause," one expert tells HealthDay.
Common issues known to accompany menopause, such as vaginal dryness, depression, and anxiety, didn't explain the impact on drive, the researchers say.