Gillian Goddard

3 min Read Gillian Goddard

Gillian Goddard

The Hot Flash Sex Survey Results

Some data on sex in your 40s, 50s, and beyond

Gillian Goddard

3 min Read

Sex is one of those topics that we might think about a lot but talk about very little. It can be an important aspect of our romantic relationships, and it can be a significant source of stress too. Talking about sex can cause many of us to revert to our middle-school selves. 

We feel insecure about our changing bodies. We want to know what everyone else is doing, and wonder whether how we feel about sex is normal. It can seem like everyone else is having more or better sex than we are. Everyone else is leading sexy, satisfied, fulfilled lives. But how do we really know what is happening between the sheets of other people’s beds?

a happy couple sitting on a bench in a park
LaShawn Dobbs / Unsplash

At Hot Flash, we look at women’s experiences of their hormonal health in their 40s, 50s, and beyond through the lens of data. To that end, a few weeks back, we asked you to help us collect some data of our own by sharing some information about your sex lives. We wanted to better understand how you, our readers, are thinking and feeling about sex and, hopefully, to provide everyone with a little reassurance. There is no “normal” when it comes to sex. If you’re happy with your sex life, that is all that matters. 

One survey respondent said it well: “It’s hard. I don’t talk to anyone about sex, other than my husband and, occasionally, my doctor, because it doesn’t feel comfortable to talk about … So, I guess, thanks for asking.”

I know it can be hard to talk about sex — even with your partner — so kudos to this reader, and thank you to everyone who participated. 

Who responded to the survey?

About 1,200 of you took our survey about sex in midlife. The vast majority of respondents are just entering midlife; 94% of respondents are between the ages of 40 and 50. Most respondents are pre- or perimenopausal. 

Most respondents have children, and about 67% have two or more children, but 4% of respondents don’t have any children. The kids in question are largely still at home: 94% of respondents have children living at home. It will not surprise most of you that having kids under your roof has a big impact on your sex life. More on that in a minute.

While most respondents identified as straight, more than 5% identified as bisexual, and about 1% identified as lesbian or gay. Regardless of sexual identity, nearly all respondents are monogamous, and married or living with a partner.

Among respondents, the most common sexual frequency was 1 to 2 times per month, followed closely by 1 to 2 times per week. About 12% of respondents have sex 3 to 4 times per year. Daily sex, sex 1 to 2 times per year, and no sex were all about even at about 5% of respondents. 

I would argue that how much we are having sex matters a lot less than whether that frequency feels right to us individually. Luckily, 37% of respondents have found their sweet spot and are happy with the frequency of sex they are having. Another 43% would like to have sex a little more often. Nearly 10% of respondents would like to cut back on how often they are having sex; typically, these respondents were trying to meet the needs of a more libidinous partner.  

A number of respondents expressed a similar sentiment about their sexual frequency: you don’t want to have sex more, but you want to want to have sex more.  

How satisfied you are with the sex you do have may be the most important factor of all. As one respondent put it, “We are having sex less often, which means that I have time to feel that I want to have sex. When we used to have it more often, I would find it difficult to feel desire. Now that we don’t have it as often, I actually look forward to having sex and find it a more enjoyable activity!”

So how satisfied are you with your sex lives? Only about 25% of respondents were very satisfied with the quality of the sex they are having. However, 39% of you are somewhat satisfied. But that leaves about 21% of respondents who were somewhat or very dissatisfied with the quality of their sex lives. The message is clear: most of us would like to see some improvement not just in the frequency of sex but also in the quality of the sex we are having. 

What is keeping us from having the kind of sex we would like? 

For a huge number of respondents, our children are having a chilling effect on our sex lives. Kids are interrupting our sleep, getting us out of bed early, and sometimes sharing our beds. Respondents with young children often reported feeling “touched out,” after dealing with the needs of bodies all day. 

Some respondents explained that their sex lives improved when their kids got older. Others found that older kids were more likely to stay up late and potentially interrupt their intimate activities even well into the evening. As the mom of teens and tweens, I can sympathize — the hours between 9 and 11 p.m. do seem to be the time for teen confidences. 

Many couples have successfully navigated the issue of interrupting children by making the most of the hours when parents are working from home while the kids are at school. For many couples with kids at home, scheduling sex has also been helpful. 

As one respondent noted, “Deciding to ‘schedule’ sex once a week is something we started doing a couple years ago, and it’s been really nice! [It] gives us something to look forward to and plan for [and] avoids the ‘should we tonight?’ back-and-forth when you’re both tired.”

Similarly problematic is feeling out of sync or disconnected from your partner. Many respondents reported that their sexual desire differed from their partner’s. Some reported no longer being attracted to their partner for any number of reasons. Resentment about the division of household labor was commonly reported as a source of tension that decreased respondents’ desire for their partner. Others felt like their partner was not aware of their needs and felt unable to share their feelings with their partner. 

Conversely, respondents who reported talking openly with their partner(s) about sex and being able to voice their sexual needs expressed improved satisfaction with their sexual experiences. I know that talking openly about sex is difficult for so many people, but those participants who made their conversations a priority feel it pays off. Many reported that couples therapy was critical to facilitating these conversations and improving their sexual satisfaction. 

For many respondents, feeling insecure about their body prevented them from initiating and enjoying sex. Changes from pregnancies and midlife weight gain were common complaints. Other respondents reported newfound confidence in a body that could grow and nourish another human. Still others found that with age, they were less distracted by their body image and less concerned about how they looked and sounded during sex. 

Sexual dysfunction was a barrier for many respondents. It came in a number of forms, including dyspareunia, or pain with penetrative sex; a partner’s erectile dysfunction; and low libido on the part of either partner, often triggered by medical problems or by medications like antidepressants. 

Respondents reported improvement with a number of interventions, including pelvic floor therapy, starting hormone replacement therapy, changing birth control methods, their partner taking medications like Viagra, using vaginal lubricants and sex toys, and reading racy books. 

I strongly encourage anyone dealing with sexual dysfunction to talk to your doctor. There are many options for treating most types of sexual dysfunction, and experimentation seems to be key for many here. When asked what had changed her sex life for the better, one respondent wrote, “Pelvic floor PT after [my] first child. [I] probably had issues most of my adult life with very tight pelvic floor muscles making sex painful. [I] also think not taking birth control improved [my] desire.”

Ultimately it was the respondents further into middle age who offered hope for those younger respondents struggling with an unsatisfying sex life. Older respondents often reported an improvement in their sex lives over the past five years. They cited their empty nests, improved body image, good communication with their longtime partners, and more time as factors that affected their sexual satisfaction. One respondent summed it up well: “The kids have moved out and we are both retired. We can have sex whenever we want!” 

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Mel B
1 month ago

As a parent of teens and 20-somethings who are sometimes back home, I’ll second the notion that it’s *harder* to have sex with older kids around! They stay up late and they know what you’re doing 🙂

Two parents in bed looking at child on the floor

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Gillian Goddard

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Milestones. We celebrate them in pregnancy, in parenting, and they’re a fun thing to celebrate at work too. Just a couple years ago I couldn’t have foreseen what this community would grow into. Today, there are over 400,000 of you here—asking questions, making others feel seen wherever they may be in their journey, and sharing information that supports data > panic. 

It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents. 

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm. 

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”

Milestones. We celebrate them in pregnancy, in parenting, and they’re a fun thing to celebrate at work too. Just a couple years ago I couldn’t have foreseen what this community would grow into. Today, there are over 400,000 of you here—asking questions, making others feel seen wherever they may be in their journey, and sharing information that supports data > panic.

It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents.

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm.

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”
...

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Comment “link” for an article with other tools to help you navigate risk and uncertainty.

#emilyoster #parentdata #riskmanagement #parentstruggles #parentingstruggles

I spend a lot of time talking people down after they read the latest panic headline. In most cases, these articles create an unnecessary amount of stress around pregnancy and parenting. This is my pro tip for understanding whether the risk presented is something you should really be worrying about.

Comment “link” for an article with other tools to help you navigate risk and uncertainty.

#emilyoster #parentdata #riskmanagement #parentstruggles #parentingstruggles
...

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Drop your toddlers favorite thing right now in the comments—then grab some popcorn.

Original thread source: Reddit @croc_docs

Drop your toddlers favorite thing right now in the comments—then grab some popcorn.

Original thread source: Reddit @croc_docs
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Just keep wiping.

Just keep wiping. ...

Dr. Gillian Goddard sums up what she learned from the Hot Flash  S e x  Survey! Here are some key data takeaways:

🌶️ Among respondents, the most common s e x u a l frequency was 1 to 2 times per month, followed closely by 1 to 2 times per week
🌶️ 37% have found their sweet spot and are happy with the frequency of s e x they are having
🌶️ About 64% of respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of the s e x they are having

Do any of these findings surprise you? Let us know in the comments!

#hotflash #intimacy #midlifepleasure #parentdata #relationships

Dr. Gillian Goddard sums up what she learned from the Hot Flash S e x Survey! Here are some key data takeaways:

🌶️ Among respondents, the most common s e x u a l frequency was 1 to 2 times per month, followed closely by 1 to 2 times per week
🌶️ 37% have found their sweet spot and are happy with the frequency of s e x they are having
🌶️ About 64% of respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of the s e x they are having

Do any of these findings surprise you? Let us know in the comments!

#hotflash #intimacy #midlifepleasure #parentdata #relationships
...

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✈️ A JAMA Pediatrics paper estimates about 0.4 child air crash deaths per year might be prevented in the U.S. with car seats 
✈️ Cars are far more dangerous than airplanes! The same JAMA paper suggests that if 5% to 10% of families switched to driving, then we would expect more total deaths as a result of this policy. 

If you want to buy a seat for your lap infant, or bring a car seat for an older child, by all means do so! But the additional protection based on the numbers is extremely small.

#parentdata #emilyoster #flyingwithkids #flyingwithbaby #carseats #carseatsafety

Should your kid be in a car seat on the plane? The AAP recommends that you put kids under 40 pounds into a car seat on airplanes. However, airlines don’t require car seats.

Here’s what we know from a data standpoint:
✈️ The risk of injury to a child on a plane without a carseat is very small (about 1 in 250,000)
✈️ A JAMA Pediatrics paper estimates about 0.4 child air crash deaths per year might be prevented in the U.S. with car seats
✈️ Cars are far more dangerous than airplanes! The same JAMA paper suggests that if 5% to 10% of families switched to driving, then we would expect more total deaths as a result of this policy.

If you want to buy a seat for your lap infant, or bring a car seat for an older child, by all means do so! But the additional protection based on the numbers is extremely small.

#parentdata #emilyoster #flyingwithkids #flyingwithbaby #carseats #carseatsafety
...

SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear. 

Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.

SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear.

Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.
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Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛

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Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛
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Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity

SLEEP DATA 💤 We asked you all about your kids’ sleep—and got nearly 15,000 survey responses to better understand kids’ sleep patterns. Comment “Link” for an article that breaks down our findings!

This graph shows sleeping location by age. You’ll notice that for the first three months, most kids are in their own sleeping location in a parent’s room. Then, over the first year, this switches toward their own room. As kids age, sharing a room with a sibling becomes more common.

Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity
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Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster

Weekends are good for extra cups of ☕️ and listening to podcasts. I asked our team how they pod—most people said on walks or during chores. What about you?

Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster
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#emilyoster #secondbaby #parentingjokes #parentinghumor

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Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET 
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray

Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray
...