Almost half of women in their early fifties have not had sex recently, a study has found.
Researchers surveyed more than 5000 people, asking if they had sex in the previous three weeks.
Just 31 per cent of heterosexual women aged 45 to 49 said they had no sexual partners during that time — but the proportion jumped to 47 per cent for women aged between 50 and 54.
Two-thirds of women in their early sixties had gone without sex for at least three weeks.
The figures include women not having regular sex with their husband or partner, as well as those who are single.
In contrast, the number of heterosexual men reporting no sex in the previous three weeks did not rise dramatically with age.
TV and movie characters often show women in their early fourties to late fifties enjoying a resurgence of passion and enjoying regular sex, most famously portrayed by actor Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones on Sex and the City, pictured.
But Dr Julii Brainard, who led the study from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, said the study showed this was not necessarily normal, and could help show “the real story”.
“These results could be viewed as good news for older women who are having less sex than when they were younger, as they can know they are normal. Often people assume everyone else is having lots of sex, but surveys like this show the real story is a lot more complicated.”
The authors concluded that everyone is less likely to have regular sex as they get older, but this shift happens at a younger age, and more dramatically, in heterosexual women.
Only about a quarter of women in their late twenties and early thirties had not had sex in the previous three weeks.
This rose to about 37 per cent for those in their late thirties and early forties, then fell to 31 per cent for those in their late forties.
But then came the rise to 47 per cent of women in their early fifties, and 52 per cent in their late fifties.
By their sixties, around two-thirds had not had sex in the previous three weeks, and in their seventies more than three-quarters said they had not.
For heterosexual men, only about half said they had not had recent sex, with this percentage staying about the same for every group from late forties to 75-plus.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.