Sex Frequency After 40: Intimacy At Midlife

Among men and women aged 40 to 49, 44% reported having partnered sex weekly, with 72% feeling it is “essential” to a good relationship.
split screen image featuring a bar graph on the left depicting that among people aged 40 and older, 44% report having partnered sex weekly, 40% report masturbating weekly, and 24% report having oral sex weekly, with a blurred photograph of a couple dancing together on the right, with their touching hands being the only part in focus
Updated:November 2023

Although we tend to think of sex as slowing down in older age — and it does, to some extent — 44% of men and women aged 40 to 49 reported having sex with a partner weekly. [1]

Additionally, 83% of men and women in that same age group feel that a satisfying sexual relationship is important, with 72% feeling that sex is “essential” to a good relationship.

Key Statistics To Know:

  • 44% of men and women aged 40 to 49 reported having sex with a partner weekly. [1]
  • 40% of men and women aged 40 to 49 reported masturbating weekly. [1]
  • 24% of men and women aged 40 to 49 reported engaging in oral sex (giving or receiving) weekly. [1]
  • Only 2% of men and women aged 40 and older feel that sex is “only for younger people.” [1]
  • 40% of women aged 40 and older rate their own desire for sex as “lower than average.” [1]
  • Among women aged 45 to 54 years old, 20.4% had been sexless for the past year and 9.2% had been sexless for five years. [4]
  • 22% of men aged 40 or older self-rated their level of desire for sex as “higher than average.” [1]
  • Among men aged 45 to 54, 12.6% reported being sexless for the past year and 6.7% had been sexless for five years. [4]
  • 26% of men and women aged 40 and older report having erotic dreams, sexual thoughts, or fantasies once a day (or more). [1]
  • Among adults aged 45 to 54 in the United States, most STI rates have risen significantly nationwide over the course of a decade, aside from HIV. [8]

In this article, we’ll explore statistics and data on sexuality after 40, including frequency, sex drive (for men and women), the most popular fantasies at midlife and beyond, and sexually transmitted diseases among those in their 40s.

Sex Frequency After 40

bar graph on the frequency of sexual activity after age 40 with a bar graph depicting that among men and women aged 40 to 49 engaging in sexual activity on a weekly basis, 44% are having partnered sex, 40% masturbate, and 24% have oral sex
  • One study found that among men and women aged 40 to 49, 44% reported having sex with a partner weekly. [1]
  • Among men and women aged 40 to 49, 40% reported masturbating weekly. [1]
  • Among men and women aged 40 to 49, 24% reported engaging in oral sex (giving or receiving) weekly. [1]
  • Among men and women aged 40 to 49, 83% find a “satisfying sexual relationship” to be important. [1]
  • Among men and women aged 40 to 49, 72% feel that sex is essential to having a good relationship. [1]
  • Only 2% of men and women aged 40 and older feel that sex is “only for younger people.” [1]
  • Men and women aged 40 and older engage in the following activities at least weekly: kissing or hugging (62%), sexual touching or caressing (44%), sexual intercourse (30%), masturbation (26%), oral sex (18%), watching porn (19%), anal sex (3%), or Dominance/submission play (3%). [1]
  • Only 40% of individuals between 50 and 60 years of age experienced sex at least once per week or daily in the past year despite 52% of those subjects wanting to experience it at that frequency. [2]
  • Only 14.3% of individuals aged 60 and older reported having sexual activity at least once per week or daily, despite 25.7% of those in that group being interested “in continuing their sexual activity.” [2]
  • In a survey of 1,900 married adults between the ages of 57-85, about 40% did not have sex for the past year in 2019. [3]

With aging, though sexual frequency is typically less than individuals in their 20s and 30s, sex remains important to many in their 40s and 50s, as well as a sizable minority of those in their 60s.

Women’s Sex Drive After 40

donut chart depicting that only 9% of women aged 40 or older rate their own level of sexual desire as higher than average
  • 40% of women aged 40 and older rate their own desire for sex as “lower than average.” [1]
  • Only 9% of women aged 40 and older rate their own level of sexual desire as “higher than average.” [1]
  • Among women aged 40 and older, 57% reported that “sex is an essential element of a good relationship.” [1]
  • 36% of women aged 40 and older report that they are not having sex often enough while 51% feel they are having the right amount of sex. [1]
  • Among women aged 45 to 54 years old, 20.4% had been sexless for the past year and 9.2% had been sexless for five years. [4]
  • Among women aged 55 to 64 years old, 38.9% had been sexless for the past year and 25.2% had been sexless for five years. [4]

While many women in their 40s and up still feel sex is important, there are many reasons one’s sex life and interest can slow down: hormonal changes and menopause symptoms, stress, work, family life, as well as mental and physical health issues.

Women may also become increasingly bored or frustrated if their sex life does not meet their emotional and/or physical needs, reducing desire and frequency (though it is often possible to change!).

Men’s Sex Drive After 40

donut chart depicting that 22% of men aged 40 or older rate their own level of sexual desire as higher than average
  • 22% of men aged 40 or older self-rated their level of desire for sex as “higher than average.” [1]
  • 18% of men aged 40 or older rated their level of sexual desire as “lower than average.” [1]
  • 55% of men aged 40 and older report that they are not having sex often enough, while 41% say they are having the right amount of sex. [1]
  • Among men aged 40 to 49, 52% reported that they are “always” able to get and keep an erection “good enough for intercourse,” compared to 29% who reported that they “usually” can, and 17% who reported having some degree of erectile dysfunction. [1]
  • Among men aged 40 and above, 67% reported that sex is “an essential element of a good relationship.” [1]
  • Among men aged 45 to 54, 12.6% reported being sexless for the past year and 6.7% had been sexless for five years. [4]
  • Among men aged 55 to 64, 15% reported being sexless for the past year and 6.8% had been sexless for five years. [4]
  • Men have about a 40% chance of developing erectile dysfunction in their 40s, with an increasing risk of 10% with each passing decade. [5]

On average, men ages 40 and up tend to have a higher sex drive compared to women.

However, culturally, sexual behavior tends to skew towards acts that are more physically pleasurable to men, such as penetrative intercourse.

While many women enjoy it too, men’s orgasms are more reliable, and thus the act is often more rewarding for men.

Unfortunately at the same time, many men begin to struggle with erections at this age, though depending on the underlying cause, erectile issues can often be resolved through changes in diet, exercise, pelvic floor exercises, relationship therapy, and/or mindfulness-style exercises.

Sexual Fantasies After 40

donut chart depicting that 26% of men and women aged 40 and older reported having erotic dreams, sexual thoughts, or fantasies once a day or more
  • Among men and women aged 40 to 49, only 16% report not having any thoughts, dreams, or fantasies about sex, including 24% of women and 6% of men. [1]
  • 26% of men and women aged 40 and older report having erotic dreams, sexual thoughts, or fantasies once a day (or more). [1]
  • Among men and women aged 40 and older who report having sexual thoughts, fantasies, or dreams, the most common fantasies were (respondents could select more than one): [1]
    • Having sex with a stranger: 39%
    • Having a threesome or group sex: 29%
    • Sex with a celebrity: 23%
    • Sex in public: 17%
    • Sex with someone of the same sex: 13%
    • BDSM: 10%
    • Sex with a current spouse or partner: 4%
    • Sex with a former partner: 2%
    • Sex with an acquaintance: 1%
  • Among those aged 40 to 49, 54% reported never discussing their fantasies with others. [1]

Sexual fantasies are diverse and enjoyed by a majority of individuals over 40, though they are more common in men (94%) than women (76%).

However, with only about half sharing their fantasies with a partner, it is not surprising that sexuality can fade with age.

Research as well as my clinical experience show that having greater sexual diversity and play within a relationship is associated with greater sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

STIs After 40

text graphic on stis after 40 that states among men and women aged 45 to 54 in the united states, most sti rates have risen significantly over the course of a decade except for hiv, which has fallen
  • In recent years, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have “dramatically increased” among older adults in the United States, particularly those divorced or widowed. [7]
  • Among adults aged 45 to 54 in the United States, most STI rates have risen significantly nationwide over the course of a decade, aside from HIV: [8]
    • Chlamydia: 38,435 in 2021 (18,136 in 2011)
    • Gonorrhea: 36,148 in 2021 (10,473 in 2011)
    • Syphilis: 6,226 in 2021 (2,123 in 2011)
    • HIV (diagnosis): 4,442 in 2021 (7,736 in 2011)
  • One study of women aged 40 and older in London found that nearly 20% of them had a sexually transmitted infection (STI), including genital herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. [6]

As divorce and remaining unmarried among middle-aged and older individuals have become increasingly common, so too have STIs.

While we tend to imagine younger populations as less responsible with their sexual health, most types of STI infections have increased by 2-3 times over the last decade or so for individuals aged 45-54.

Safer sex is important at any age.

Sources: