During middle adulthood, people experience changes in many aspects of their life, including sexuality. Biological changes tend to decrease sexual activity, and an increase in societal obligations may impose even further limitations upon it. At the same time, healthy generativity is associated with lower chances of depression and, thus, may indirectly promote sexual activity during middle adulthood despite the gradual decline in the corresponding biological functions.
When discussing sexuality in middle adulthood, it is first necessary to cover the biological changes that happen during this period in both male and female organisms. As a rule, women face climacteric – the gradual end of fertility – during their middle adulthood. Its onset may range from the thirties to the late fifties, but the early fifties are statistically the most common age. Due to a drop in estrogen, monthly cycles shorten and eventually stop in menopause. Attitudes toward menopause differ across cultures depending on their childbirth rate, occupation statistics, and other factors, but many women report increased depression during the climacteric. In men, middle adulthood coincides with a decrease in sperm motility since the late twenties and semen during the fifties. There is also a gradual decline in testosterone, although it can be slowed with regular sexual activity and possible erectile dysfunction. Depression, stress, anxiety, and other factors can also contribute to the latter. In short, biological changes in both male and female organisms during middle adulthood impose limitations on sexual activity.
Apart from purely biological factors, societal responsibilities usually associated with middle adulthood also impact human sexuality. Generally speaking, middle adulthood is the period of increased generativity, meaning more interaction with younger generations with the aim of aiding and educating them. As a consequence, this stage of life is associated with extended commitment to people beyond oneself ad one’s romantic partner. Erikson’s theory views middle adulthood as a period of generativity, as opposed to stagnation, and associates the former with the integration of personal goals and broader social well-being. Valiant’s view of midlife also stresses the focus on long-term less-personal goals. Based on this outlook, those going through middle adulthood can be expected to seek self-affirmation in more ways than individual sexual gratification. As a result, the gradual biological decline in sexual activity coincides with a shift of social roles that facilitates gratification through non-sexual activities more than in the previous stages of life.
At the same time, it would be wrong to assume that biological and social changes characteristic of middle adulthood undercut the possibility of active sexual life during this stage. As mentioned above, depression is commonly associated with climacteric in women, and anxiety is one of the foremost causes of erectile dysfunction in men during middle adulthood. At the same time, evidence suggests that highly generative adults are considerably lower in depression than others. Considering this, higher generativity and resulting psychological well-being may promote healthy and consistent sexual activity throughout middle adulthood, even though the objective biological limitations will still limit it.
As one can see, middle adulthood signifies considerable shifts in human sexuality toward more stable on-term relationships and less frequent intercourse. Climacteric and menopause in women and a decrease in testosterone in men result in lower sexual activity, especially when combined with extended and increasingly non-personal societal obligations. However, high generativity and may also promote sexual activity indirectly by contributing to psychological health and reducing depression.