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The Effect of Social and Psychological Factors on Menopause and Vaginal Dryness

Review on November 03, 2009

It is well known that older women experience changes in sexual functioning, which includes the pain of vaginal dryness. Menopause is often what drives this symptom. Vaginal dryness after menopause is also commonplace. However, whether a woman experiences menopausal vaginal dryness depends on her social support network, level of physical activity and presence or absence of sexual activity with a partner. A study conducted by Hess et al (2009), titled: "Association of Lifestyle and Relationship Factors with Sexual Functioning of Women during Midlife" explores this issue.

Menopausal vaginal dryness and vaginal dryness after menopause are more than just biological changes in sexual functioning. Vaginal dryness is also triggered by psychological and social factors. For the Hess et al (2009) study, 677 women between the ages of 41 and 68 were interviewed, giving both the perspective of menopausal vaginal dryness and vaginal dryness post menopausal. Sixty-eight percent of women studied reported being sexually active. For the purpose of this study, sexual activity was defined as "engagement in and enjoyment of sexually intimate activities." Those who did not participate in sexual activity cited that their main reason for not doing so was lack of a partner (seventy percent); twelve percent reported a lack of interest in sex in general while five percent cited lack of interest in their partner. The least common response (four percent) was for physical problems such as vaginal dryness. Women who were sexually active tended to be better educated, younger, married, have a stronger social support network in general, have a lower rate of comorbid medical illnesses, and a lower body mass index. However, women who reported being sexually active also experienced higher levels of vaginal dryness. Menopause plays a big part in this process, but sexual activity is also a factor. Sexual enjoyment also played a role in whether or not women experienced vaginal dryness. However, it is unknown whether vaginal dryness is a symptom of lack of sexual enjoyment or the cause of it.

To summarize, women who experience vaginal dryness and vaginal dryness after menopause should not view vaginal dryness as a purely physiological symptom. They should evaluate the lifestyle choices previously mentioned in the article when considering how to treat vaginal dryness. Menopause and its symptoms should not be left untreated. The study found that physical activity and a strong social support network were particularly associated with enhanced sexual enjoyment, which lowers the risk of suffering from vaginal dryness.

Sources:
  • "Vaginal Dryness". Mayo Clinic Health Resource. 2007
  • "Vulvovaginal Symptoms". The Changing Body: Menopause Handbook. www.menopause.org
  • Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.