Adult Sexual Development

Sexual development continues throughout adulthood. Adult sexuality can be affected by several factors, including pregnancy, chronic illness, stress, and the normal aging process. As they age, adult men and women experience a number of physical and psychological changes that can affect sexual relationships and sexuality.

In adult men, testosterone production normally decreases after the age of 25 or so. Lower levels of testosterone can result in a lack of sexual desire and difficulty achieving erection. Other medical conditions (e.g., benign prostatic hyperplasia [BPH, enlarged prostate], testosterone deficiency) are more common in men who are middle age and older and can affect sexual function.

In adult women (usually between the ages of 45 and 60), the ovaries stop producing the hormone estrogen and menstrual periods cease (called menopause). In some cases, menopause affects sexuality, causing vaginal dryness and irritation and reducing sexual desire.

Adult men and women who experience a decrease in sexual function may benefit from a number of treatments. These treatments include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), selective enzyme inhibitors (e.g., Viagra, Levitra, Cialis), 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (e.g., Proscar, Avodart), and sex therapy.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (e.g., eating a proper diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding smoking) can help many adults continue sexual expression and sexual relationships throughout their lifetimes. Open communication between sexual partners and proper treatment for underlying medical conditions also can help older adults keep intimacy an important part of life into old age.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 25 Dec 2008

Last Modified: 05 Oct 2015