Correlates of sexual function among multi-ethnic middle-aged women: Results from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN)

Nancy E. Avis, Xinhua Zhao, Catherine B. Johannes, Marcia Ory, Sarah Brockwell, Gail A. Greendal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine sexual function in a cohort of Baby Boomer women of diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds; to compare differences between pre-and early perimenopausal women; and to identify sociodemographic, healthrelated, and psychosocial (including psychological, behavioral, and relationship) factors related to sexual function. Design: Six domains of sexual functionwere studied in 3,167 women in the baseline cohort of the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Participants were 42 to 52 years old, pre-or early perimenopausal, and not using hormones. The study sample included non-Hispanic white, African American, Hispanic, Chinese, and Japanese women. Results: Early perimenopausalwomen reported greater pain with intercourse than premenopausalwomen(P=0.01), but the two groups did not differ in frequency of sexual intercourse, desire, arousal, or physical or emotional satisfaction. Variables having the greatest association across all outcomes were relationship factors, the perceived importance of sex, attitudes toward aging, and vaginal dryness. Despite controlling for a wide range of variables, we still found ethnic differences for arousal (P<0.0001), pain (P=0.03), desire (P<0.0001), and frequency of sexual intercourse (P=0.0003). African American women reported higher frequency of sexual intercourse than white women; Hispanic women reported lower physical pleasure and arousal.Chinesewomen reportedmore pain and less desire and arousal than the white women, as did the Japanese women, although the only significant difference was for arousal. Conclusions: Relationship variables, attitudes toward sex and aging, vaginal dryness, and cultural background have a greater impact on most aspects of sexual function than the transition to early perimenopause.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1244-1255
Number of pages12
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2018


  • Aging
  • Diverse populations
  • Menopause
  • Sexual function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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