Understanding Overall and Sexual Health in Older Women Using Saliva Sex Hormone Measurements

Stacy T. Lindau, University of Chicago
Natalia S. Gavrilova, University of Chicago

The relationship between sex hormone physiology and sexual function in older women is complex and, based primarily on small clinical or laboratory studies, only partially understood. The National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP) data were used to explore the associations between endogenous sex hormone levels with global self-reported health and characteristics of sexual performance. Salivary sex hormone measures collected in the homes of a probability sample of 1550 women ages 57-85 exhibit internal validity and align with findings from the few comparable prior studies. In multivariate analyses, sex hormone concentrations appear to be associated with vaginal dryness and subjective genital arousal, but not frequency of sexual activity or attitudes about sex. As has been found previously, DHEA exhibits a significant association with global health. These descriptive analyses lay a foundation for more in-depth exploration of the relationship between sex hormones in later life and female sexuality and health.

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Presented in Session 31: Genes, Sexual Behavior and Fertility