Mindfulness May Help Lower Sexual Distress in Older Women With Low Libido
Low libido is a common sexual health complaint among women, and it may become even more common as women age. Midlife and older women may experience low libido due to changes in their hormone levels, menopause symptoms, changes in their relationships, changes in their self-perception with regard to aging and sexuality, and/or an increase in sleep problems, depression, or anxiety.
Mindfulness has been shown to have positive effects on a person’s sexual health. By practicing mindfulness and focusing one’s energy on the present moment, a person may be able to reduce rumination during sex, feel more self-compassion and positivity about their body, communicate more effectively with a sexual partner, and experience sexual sensations more fully.
These benefits combined with the low-risk nature of behavioral interventions make mindfulness an intriguing treatment option for some sexual health problems. To see if mindfulness training could be helpful for midlife and older women with low libido, the authors of a recent study recruited 81 women of 45 years or older to complete a virtual 6-week mindfulness intervention or participate in a virtual 6-week education group.
Of the 81 women who were recruited, 20 were excluded for having high sexual pain, severe depression symptoms, high relationship dissatisfaction, heavy alcohol use, or no current sexual partner. The remaining 61 women were randomly assigned to the mindfulness group (31) or the education group (30).
The mindfulness group participated in six weekly 2-hour sessions focused on mindfulness and sexual function that were co-led by a primary care physician and a trained mindfulness instructor. The education group also participated in six weekly 2-hour sessions led by a primary care physician, but these sessions were focused on general educational topics related to the health of midlife women, including osteoporosis and heart disease.
Some of the women were unable to attend any of the sessions, mostly due to scheduling conflicts. Overall, 18 women in the mindfulness group and 23 women in the education group attended at least one session.
The researchers used survey questions and short interviews to assess the participants’ satisfaction with the program, their sexual function and sexual distress, and their likeliness to recommend the treatment to another woman with low libido.
In the end, there were no significant changes in sexual functioning in either of the groups, as measured at baseline and 6 weeks after treatment with the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI). However, the women in the mindfulness group experienced significant improvements in sexual distress (as measured by the Female Sexual Distress Scale-Revised) after mindfulness training, while the women in the education group did not.
What’s more, the 73% of the women in the mindfulness group reported being satisfied or very satisfied with the sessions, and they were more likely than the women in the education group to recommend the treatment to another individual with low libido.
Improvements in sexual distress can make a big difference for individuals who are struggling with a sexual problem. Therefore, mindfulness training may offer some positive benefits to women who are experiencing low libido.
- Thomas, H.N., Brotto, L.A., de Abril Cameron, F., Yabes, J., & Thurston, R.C. (2023). A virtual, group-based mindfulness intervention for midlife and older women with low libido lowers sexual distress in a randomized controlled pilot study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 20(8), 1060–1068, https://doi.org/10.1093/jsxmed/qdad081