Ryo Hirayama, a doctoral student at Oregon State University, and Professor Alexis Walker asked 861 people ages 57-85 who had an intimate partner and reported having at least one sexual problem such as the lack of interest in sex, inability to climax, physical pain during sexual intercourse, maintaining an erection or lubrication issues.
Study participants were asked to rank from how bothered they were by each problem and their well-being.
The study, to be published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, found fewer than half of older adults with sexual problems discussed them with their doctors, although men were more likely to do so than women.
"Older adults are advised to talk to their doctors about sexual health issues, but not all people do so and talking with a physician is not as helpful as you might expect."
However, discussing their problems with their partner or friends was effective for many men in reducing stress and unhappiness related to sex, but this benefit was not reported women.
"In fact, women with higher levels of sexual stress who confided in their close friends reported lower happiness," Hirayama said. "We aren't quite sure what to make of this finding."