Failed relationships and emotional health threaten menopausal women's interest in sex more than levels of the male hormone testosterone and other naturally-occurring reproductive hormones, a study says.
While testosterone is the main sex hormone in men, women also have small amounts of it as ovaries naturally produce testosterone.
"While levels of testosterone and other reproductive hormones were linked to women's feelings of desire, our large-scale study suggests psycho-social factors influence many aspects of sexual function," said co-study author John F Randolph from the University of Michigan's Medical School in the US.
A woman's emotional well-being and the quality of her intimate relationship are tremendously important contributors to sexual health, Randolph added.
The study examined data from 3,302 women who participated in the decade-long Study of Women's Health around the Nation (SWAN) to analyse the relationship between reproductive hormones and sexual function during menopausal transition.
Participants were asked about their interest in sexual activity. The team also measured levels of testosterone and other reproductive hormones. Researchers found women who naturally had higher levels of testosterone reported feeling sexual desire more frequently than women with low levels.
They noted that women who reported having fewer sad moods and higher levels of satisfaction in their relationships also reported better sexual function. The findings suggest a women's relationship status and other psycho-social factors may be stronger than any hormonal effects.
"Women's relationships and day-to-day reality are intricately linked to sexual function," Randolph said.
The researchers, however, advised against prescribing testosterone to healthy women and called for more research into the long-term safety of testosterone therapy. The study was published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.