What changes to sex drive are normal as we age?

Rachael Kraus, Maurice Beer M.D.
February 7th, 2022 · 4 min read
Medically Verified

Sex as we age: Surprising sex drive changes in your 20s, 30s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond

Aging is inevitable, and we all expect to experience certain changes as we grow older. But is sex drive an unavoidable casualty of aging, or is it possible to maintain our libidos well into our later years?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s look at a few key must-knows:
  • In order to have a healthy sex drive, your body needs to produce adequate amounts of sex hormones.
  • Since sex hormone production declines naturally as you age, it’s typically accompanied by a lessened libido.
  • Your sex drive may diminish over the years, but if it’s completely gone, that’s probably a sign of underlying issues. 
  • No matter what your age, there is hope! Keep reading for solutions.
One important note we should mention: we recognize that gender and “biological sex” are complex and multifaceted. For the purpose of this article when we use gendered language we’re referring to someone’s physiological gender assigned at birth, not their pronouns or gender identity. 

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How does aging affect sex drive?

The average person’s sex drive peaks when they’re younger, and slowly tapers off as they age. So yes, it’s incredibly common for your sex drive to gradually decrease as you grow older. That being said, there isn’t always an exact correlation between aging and a loss of sexual interest.
In other words, aging isn’t a death sentence for your sex drive. Even though your hormones will likely decrease as you get older, the way this affects your libido will depend on your personal biology just as much as overall hormonal patterns.
Menopause is a unique situation. While it’s typical for female hormone levels to decrease with age, the biggest change is around menopause. It’s common for estrogen levels (and sometimes the libido as well) to drop sharply as a woman goes through menopause, but fewer women reported a loss of sex drive after menopause.

At what age does sex drive normally decrease?

A specific number is hard to nail down, but if you’re speaking in broad terms, most people start to see their libidos chilling out a bit when they’re in their 40s or 50s.
For those assigned female at birth (AFAB), menopause - which happens around age 51 in the United States, on average - is often accompanied by a reduction in sex drive. This isn’t necessarily the case for everyone, but it’s the one risk factor for a decreased libido that’s fairly common. According to one study, while 26.7% of pre-menopausal women experienced low sexual desire, the percentage increased to 52.4% for menopausal women.
For those assigned male at birth (AMAB), there isn’t a clearly defined menopause, but there is a more vaguely understood “manopause”, or andropause; this is more of a descriptor than a medical term, as it isn’t officially recognized by the medical community. It can hit as early as a man’s mid-40s, and is characterized not only by lower testosterone and diminished libido, but sometimes sexual dysfunction as well.

A breakdown of sex hormones as we age

In your 20s

  • For men - sex hormones are high at this age, so if you’re using libido as the main metric, you could say that this is when men reach their “sexual peak”.
  • For women - sex hormone production is going strong, and that often translates to plenty of sexual interest.

In your 30s

  • For men - starting at age 30, testosterone starts to decline by about 1% each year. This won’t make much of an impact on the libido during this decade of life, but it does mean that their sex drive will probably either stay the same or lessen slightly.
  • For women - even though sex hormone levels are already starting to drop off a bit, this is the decade when women most consistently report having the highest sex drive

In your 40s

  • For men - this period is when males might start experiencing “manopause”. While that’s more of a pop-culture term than anything, it describes what many men notice as they enter their 40s or 50s - a distinct reduction in sex drive. This is far from universal, though; a lot of men continue to enjoy plenty of sexual activity.
  • For women - menopause won’t necessarily happen at this point, but some women may enter ”perimenopause”, or the beginning stages of menopause. Sex hormones won’t necessarily be nose-diving, but in the late 40s, you might see a gradual decrease in sex drive.

In your 50s

What to do about low sex drive

Here’s what to keep in mind: a decreased libido is normal as you age, but a low libido usually isn’t. If you’re noticing that your libido is disappearing faster than you think it should be, maybe it’s time to see if there’s anything you can do about it.
The first step is to use lab testing to examine the biomarkers that govern your sex drive. Your sex hormones are the obvious first choice, but if those turn out to be normal, maybe checking on your nutrient levels could shed some light on the root cause. For example, vitamin D is actually a sex hormone precursor that’s essential for a lively libido. Then there are nutrients like iron and B12 - if you’re deficient in either one of them, it’s pretty likely that your sex drive will suffer. You can even do it from home with Base’s at-home lab tests; they’ll not only walk you through your test results, but they’ll even outline a personalized action plan based on what the tests uncover.
As for hormonal testing during menopause? Estrogen is the hormone that experiences the most drastic drop during menopause (although all the sex hormones decrease to some extent). That said, studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of testosterone therapy and other personalized treatment plans in restoring the libido for post-menopausal women.
Lab testing can give you a lot of answers that you can’t get from just interpreting your symptoms, but after that, determining your strategy is up to you and any medical professionals you decide to consult. After all, your health journey is completely unique - it deserves the kind of approach that fits you perfectly!
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