The National Institutes of Health is spending nearly $200,000 on a study that seeks to improve older women's sex lives through mindfulness meditation.
The University of Pittsburgh received the funding for the project, which began last month. Mindfulness, a New Age meditation technique of thinking about thoughts, will be used as an intervention to get women older than 50 more active in the bedroom.
"Almost half of U.S. women experience sexual problems, which have significant negative impacts on physical and mental health," according to the grant awarded for the project. "Low sexual desire is the most common sexual problem, particularly among women 50 and older, but there are few treatment options available."
Researchers believe meditating can help elderly women increase their sexual desire.
"Treatments that can address both physical and psychological aspects of sexual dysfunction may be more effective than medications," the grant continues. "Mindfulness is a practice that emphasizes in-the-moment focus and non-judgmental bodily awareness. A group-based behavioral intervention rooted in mindfulness has shown early promise in small trials, but only among younger women."
"The overall objective of this study is to adapt and pilot test a mindfulness intervention in women 50 and older with low sexual desire," the grant states.
The goal of the study is to address a "significant public health need" of improving "women's sex lives."
"The proposed award is consistent with the mission of the [National Institute on Aging] to support research using ‘integrative approaches to the study of social, psychological, and physiological influences on health and well-being over the life course,'" the grant states. "Developing effective treatments for women's sexual problems will not only improve women's sex lives. It will address a significant public health need by allowing adults to maintain high quality of life and essential social relationships with aging."
Holly Thomas, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, is leading the study. Thomas's overall career goal is to become an independent scientist who focuses on "patient-centered clinical research to improve sexual function in aging women," according to the grant.
A 2014 research paper coauthored by Thomas found women who "reported greater importance of sex" were more likely to be sexually active. The study reported 66.3 percent of women aged 40 to 65 in the research sample were sexually active.
The study also found that midlife women "have many reasons for engaging in sex that go beyond ‘quality.'"
Another paper in 2015 coauthored by Thomas found that "a considerable proportion of midlife and older women remain sexually active if they have a partner available."