Vietnamese aging and marital sexual behavior in comparative perspective

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

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This study examines marital sexual activity in relation to age and its significance for marital relationships in Vietnam with particular attention to older persons. Results are compared with Thailand and the US. Two regional surveys provide the first quantitative assessment of marital sex in Vietnam. As elsewhere, marital sexual activity declines with age. At older ages, substantial proportions of married Vietnamese are sexually inactive. Levels of activity among older Vietnamese and Thais are remarkably similar and substantially lower than in the US. Contrary to US studies, the frequency of sexual activity shows little relationship to marital satisfaction and harmony in Vietnam. Possible explanations for these differences are discussed in terms of biases in the data, differences in health and living arrangements, and societal, cultural and normative contexts. We speculate that a main reason underlying the differences is a lesser societal emphasis on sex in general and on the importance of sexual and physical intimacy in marital relationships in Vietnam and Thailand than in the US.