How Important is Sex in Later Life? The Views of Older People

Sheffield Institute for Studies on Ageing, Community Sciences Centre, University of Sheffield, Northern General Hospital, Herries Road, S5 7AU, Sheffield, UK.
Social Science & Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 05/2003; 56(8):1617-28. DOI: 10.1016/S0277-9536(02)00180-6
Source: PubMed


Stereotypes of an asexual old age remain pervasive, shaping not only popular images of older people, but also research and policy agendas. However, older people's own attitudes towards the role and value of sex in later life remain relatively unexplored. This paper draws on both quantitative and qualitative data to examine how sex is prioritised in middle age and later life. Data collection methods involved completion of two quality of life measures (WHOQOL-100 and WHOQOL Importance Scale), followed by semi-structured interviews. In total the sample comprised 69 individuals recruited from the age/sex register of a general practice in Sheffield in the UK. This paper will focus upon the accounts of 21 men and 23 women aged 50-92 years. Ratings of the importance of sex to participants were gathered from the WHOQOL Importance Scale; the in-depth interviews enabled the basis for this prioritisation to be explored. Analysis identified the following key themes. Participants who did not consider sex to be of any importance to them neither had a current sexual partner, nor felt that they would have another sexual partner in their lifetime. Indeed, all participants who had a current sexual partner attributed at least some importance to sex, with many rating sex as 'very' or 'extremely' important. However, experiencing barriers to being sexually active led them to place less importance on sex; this was particularly apparent when health problems and widowhood were experienced. Age was seen as facilitating coping when sex became less frequent, or stopped altogether. This was explained in terms of sexual desire decreasing with age (for some male participants), the cessation of sex being easier to cope with in a relationship of long duration and the expectation that sex will become less possible with 'normal ageing'. The discussion considers the implications of these findings for this developing field.

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Available from: Sharron Hinchliff,
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    • "Relationships factors are important because it is difficult to isolate sexual function out of this context, and the presence or absence of partner affects sexual desire [30]. Most of older people think about sexuality as an important component of close emotional relationship in later life and express no interest in sex outside this context (for example in the form of " one night stands " ) [25]. Laumann et al. [33] found in their analysis of the Global Study of Sexual Attitude and Behaviors that sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction are highly related in older adults, which means that for aged population sex in companionate relationship also express the quality of the relationship. "
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    ABSTRACT: Available from:
    Sexology in Midwifery, Edited by Ana Polona Mivšek, 04/2015: chapter Breaking Down Taboos Concerning Sexuality among the Elderly; INTECH., ISBN: 978-953-51-2041-4
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    • ")와 노인의 성 과 관련된 질적 연구결과들(Cho, 2011; Gang & Park, 2003; Gott & Hinchliff, 2003; Kim, 2003; Kim et al., 2005; Pyun, 2010 "

    12/2014; 16(3):189. DOI:10.17079/jkgn.2014.16.3.189
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    • "However, other study showed the good internal consistency in the sexual domain [Table 3]. This situation may be due to the cultural issue, attitude toward sexual activity in menopausal duration[1619] or the direct question about sexual domain. Kulasingam et al.,[16] assessed the validity of the sexual domain indirectly with marital status in their study and they suggested using the direct question in the sexual domain in further studies. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background:The menopause-specific quality-of-life (MENQOL) was developed as a specific tool to measure the health-related quality-of-life in menopausal women. Recently, it has been translated into about 15 languages.Aim:This study was performed to develop the Persian version of the MENQOL questionnaire from the original English language version.Subjects and Methods:This was a cross-sectional study that evaluated 300 menopausal women attending five primary health-care centers in Shiraz. The “forward-backward” procedure was applied to translate the questionnaire from English to Persian by two independent translators and then back translated into English and was checked to ensure the correct translation. Then, participants were interviewed and the questionnaire filled out.Results:Over all Cronbach's alpha was 0.9 and in subscales of vasomotor, psychosocial, physical and sexual were 0.8, 0.7, 0.8 and 0.3, respectively. However, the major items were acceptable (Cronbach's alpha > 0.7), but internal consistency in sexual item was poor (Cronbach's alpha = 0.3). The result of internal consistency was acceptable in subgroups of age, disease, education, marital status and smoking habit.Conclusions:The Persian MENQOL questionnaire demonstrates good internal consistency in vasomotor, physical and psychosocial domains, but not sexual. Therefore we suggest that, the items: “Vaginal dryness during intercourse” and “weight gain” should be deleted in Persian version of the MENQOL. This questionnaire can be used in Persian language and Iranian culture in different subgroups of age, marital status and educational level as well as in individuals with hypertension and diabetes.
    05/2014; 4(3):325-9. DOI:10.4103/2141-9248.133453
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