Sexual health of people over 50 should not be overlooked by health care professionals in order to help maintain well-being in old age, a new study has found. Researchers from University of Sheffield, University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan in the UK analysed data from over 7,000 people to examine difficulties with sexual
activities and function, attitudes towards sex and details about the current sexual partners of over 50s.
“There is a growing body of evidence showing that sexual activity is important to the quality of life of older adults,
and that it can be influenced by physical, psychological and social factors,” said Sharron Hinchliff from University of
“People over the age of 50 can experience sexual difficulties in different ways. For some, they have a negative
impact on their psychological well-being,” she said. “Whether or not a sexual difficulty within the relationship has a negative impact within that relationship also differs between couples,” Hinchliff said.
“For instance, some participants in the study mentioned becoming more intimate as a way to deal with sexual changes,” she said.
They found that women over 80 were more likely to share the sexual likes of their partner, feel emotionally close to
them and not feel obligated to have sex with them than those aged 50-79. Men over 80 also reported that they were more likely to share the sexual likes of their partner and feel emotionally close to them than those aged 50-79.
However, men over 80 also reported that they felt a greater degree of obligation to have sex with their partner
than at any age between 50-79. The study also found that for both men and women aged over 50, there was a positive association between frequency of physical intimacy and overall levels of subjective well-being. However, whilst women’s subjective well-being continued to increase with frequency of intimate behaviour, subjective well-being was slightly lower amongst men who reported having sexual intercourse with their partners every day than it was
for those who reported intercourse two or three times per week.
Despite the findings on the importance of intimacy in later life, the report concludes that not enough is being done
to ensure that older people have access to good sexual health care and support.
“We know that positive sexuality and intimacy throughout the life-course is linked to higher levels of happiness and
well-being – irrespective of age,” said David Lee, Research Fellow at The University of Manchester.
“Older people have a right to good sexual health care and should be able to easily access joined up services to help
them meet that goal,” said Lee. The research was published in the Journal of Sexual Research.