The Male Sex Drive — How it Changes With Age

For many men, having a strong sex drive—or libido—can be an important part of feeling healthy and having a good quality of life.

Key takeaways:
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    Male sex drive and testosterone levels decrease with age.
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    Less sex does not mean less sexual satisfaction.
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    Good health improves sexual function and sexual quality of life at any age.
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    Aerobic exercise can improve sexual function and sexual satisfaction.

However, as men age and their bodies change, so does their sex drive. Sex drive tends to decrease with age after it peaks in men in their 20s, but that does not mean that aging has to have a negative effect on sex.

Age, sex drive, and sexual satisfaction

Most men (and women) are more sexually active in their 20s than in any other decade of life. Men’s sex drives seem to peak in their 20s and begin to slowly decrease in their 30s and onward. Men in their 40s and older are also more likely to have problems with sexual function, including erectile dysfunction.

Men have less sex as they get older, but that is only half the story. Sexual satisfaction does not necessarily decrease with age.

A study in Norway found that although sexual activity decreases with age and sexual dysfunction increases with age, sexual satisfaction is more complex. According to the study, men in their 20s had the highest level of sexual satisfaction, followed by men in their 50s. Surprisingly, despite an increase in sexual dysfunction and decreased sex drive, men in their 50s reported higher sexual satisfaction than those in their 30s and 40s.

Another study, from the U.S., found that overall, sexual quality of life tended to decrease with age, but was higher in older people who had better quality of sex. The authors attributed this to “sexual wisdom”—better sex through past experience. No matter the cause, this is certainly good news for anyone worried about their odds of having a fulfilling sex life as they get older.

Testosterone and sex drive

Testosterone levels play a major role in the male sex drive. Testosterone is the primary sex hormone responsible for male sexual development and is also associated with sex drive. Research has shown that men’s testosterone levels decline with age beginning after age 30 and reach their lowest levels after age 70—when sex drive is at its lowest.

Low testosterone in men is called male hypogonadism. Hypogonadism in men can cause or contribute to lower sex drive, erectile dysfunction, infertility, loss of bone mass, loss of muscle mass, and depression.

Testosterone replacement therapy can treat male hypogonadism and research shows that in older men it can improve sexual activity, sexual desire, and erectile dysfunction. In a study of men with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, testosterone replacement therapy was shown to improve not only sexual function but also the quality of life and memory.

While considered a normal part of aging, low testosterone can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, including head injuries and some medications. Certain prescription medications can decrease testosterone levels, including opioids (painkillers), hormone therapy for prostate cancer, and a few other drugs.

Remember, do not stop taking any medication without first talking with your healthcare provider. If you are concerned about your testosterone levels, discuss it with your doctor or another healthcare provider.

Better health means better sex

As men age, health plays an increasingly important role in their sex life. According to research, people in better health are more interested in sex, have sex more often, and have a better sexual quality of life. On the other hand, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other conditions that affect blood flow can affect sex drive and contribute to male sexual dysfunction.

Medications can also affect sex drive and sexual performance in men, including some prescription medications for high blood pressure, depression, prostate disease, and hair loss. Common medications that contribute to low sex drive and sexual dysfunction are beta-blockers and diuretics as well as finasteride (Propecia, Proscar). Always discuss possible medication side effects with your healthcare provider—the benefits may outweigh the drawbacks.

Erectile dysfunction

Along with a decreased sex drive, aging, poor health, and certain medications can also lead to erectile dysfunction—a known contributor to depression. Fortunately, modern medicine has dedicated a great deal of research to improving men’s erections.

Nowadays, there are several ways to successfully improve erectile dysfunction, including penile implants and medications such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra, Staxn). While these medications are safe for many men, they can cause dangerous side effects in people taking nitrates (such as nitroglycerin, isosorbide, and others).

Exercise can improve sex

It is no secret that aerobic exercise is good for your health. It helps reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat in addition to decreasing the risk of death from coronary artery disease. Studies also show that aerobic exercise is also important for sexual health.

A study in Japan found that regular aerobic exercise improved sexual function in men aged 43-59. Another group of researchers in the U.S. showed that aerobic exercise—running, cycling, or swimming—improved sexual function in men aged 18-50. The potential for better sex life is excellent motivation to get more exercise,

When do men stop being sexually active?

If you think that people stop being sexually active when they get older, you would be wrong. Research shows that men have a sexual life expectancy well into their 70s. While it is true that sexual activity decreases with age, even the elderly are busy getting busy.

In fact, the 55 and older population has had a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) over the past few decades, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. While an increase in STDs may be alarming, it is a clear indicator that both men and women keep having sex well into old age.

As men age, they tend to have less sex but have high satisfaction with their sex life. Aging and health can have significant effects on sexual function and satisfaction, but medical treatment and exercise can improve both sexual function and sexual satisfaction at any age. If you are concerned about decreased sex drive or sexual dysfunction, talk with your healthcare provider.

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