Wanting to want it: low desire as a common sexual complaint among middle-aged Canadian adults - My Sexual Health

Wanting to want it: low desire as a common sexual complaint among middle-aged Canadian adults

Low desire can be very frustrating – you want to want sex but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Life gets in the way, health problems make it more difficult, or relationship issues can decrease sexual desire.

Midlife responsibilities

Being middle-aged (40-59 years old) often means you are juggling many things at once: your career is established, you may have children, or some health issues may start to pop up. Dr. Quinn-Nilas and their team of Canadian researchers wanted to study this population of adults that can be overlooked in sexual health surveys. Sexual health problems are common in this age range and the researchers wanted to look at the most frequent sexual problems and their possible effect on people’s happiness with their sex life.


To answer these questions, a survey was sent to Canadian men and women from around the country. The questions asked participants about themselves (age, marital status, medical conditions…) and about their sexual problems (ejaculation difficulties, vaginal dryness…) and happiness.

What sexual complaints do middle-aged people experience?

Of the 2400 respondents, 40% of women and 30% of men said that their sexual desire was lower than they would like it to be. Women responded that vaginal dryness, difficulties achieving orgasm, and vaginal pain were sexual problems that they experienced. Frequency of sexual experiences was also a factor that was associated with sexual problems in women.

What affected their levels of desire?

Social factors affected participants’ levels of desire; for example, non-married or never-married people were less likely to report low desire than those who were married or cohabiting. In addition, women who were interested in trying new things sexually did not feel that low desire was their main sexual problem. The paper points to research that says a predictable sexual relationship may result in a lower desire to be intimate.


Health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, or going through menopause were linked with low desire. Pain, discomfort, or vaginal dryness from health conditions or menopause can negatively affect people’s desire for intercourse.

Sexual happiness

The researchers noted that many of the factors affected how the respondents rated their sexual happiness. Difficulties achieving orgasm or erections and low desire strongly impacted how the participants viewed their sexual satisfaction.


In another study cited in this paper (Brock et al. 2006), midlife Canadians felt that their sexual functioning is important to their overall well-being, but it was not being discussed with their doctors.


This study was a snapshot at the sexual problems of midlife Canadian adults rather than a deep dive as time and population limitations meant that the researchers could not make generalized conclusions. It is, however, a very interesting and useful look at some sexual problems faced by people in mid-life with the hopes to encourage patients and doctors to discuss their sexual well-being openly, as well as to identify healthcare needs for professionals and policymakers to help inform their decisions.

Reference articles:

Quinn-Nilas C, Milhausen RR, McKay A and Holzapfel S (2018) Prevalence and predictors of sexual problems among midlife Canadian adults: Results from a national survey. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 15(6): 873–879. 


Brock G, Moreira EJ, Glasser DB, et al. (2006) Sexual disorders and associated help-seeking behaviors in Canada. Can J Urol 13: 2953-2961.