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Sexuality and Health Among Older Adults


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Summary of Findings from "A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older Adults in the United States" from New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med
Volume 357(8):762-774
August 23, 2007)

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Sexuality and Health Among Older Adults

  1. 1. Original Article A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older Adults in the United States Stacy Tessler Lindau, M.D., M.A.P.P., L. Philip Schumm, M.A., Edward O. Laumann, Ph.D., Wendy Levinson, M.D., Colm A. O'Muircheartaigh, Ph.D., and Linda J. Waite, Ph.D . N Engl J Med Volume 357(8):762-774 August 23, 2007 Contact Katherine Forsythe, MSW, for a link to this article, findings, and references: [email_address] 415.702.9544
  2. 2. Summary of Findings <ul><li>This survey of a large population of adults 57 to 85 years of age showed that rates of sexual activity decline with age but that many older adults are sexually active throughout their lives. </li></ul><ul><li>Sex with a partner in the previous year was reported by </li></ul><ul><ul><li>73% of those ages 57-63 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>53% of those 64-75 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>26% of people 75-85+. </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Summary of Findings, continued <ul><li>13% of men and 35% of women said “sex was not at all important.” </li></ul><ul><li>Despite personal nature, people were forthcoming with information (more information about sexual expression than income). </li></ul>
  4. 4. Summary of Findings, continued <ul><li>No comprehensive, nationally representative study has been available to help doctors understand sexual norms and problems of aging adults </li></ul><ul><li>Demand for medical attention and understanding about sex and aging increasing </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>“ We hope our findings improve public health by countering harmful stereotypes and allowing older individuals to view their experience relative to others. It may comfort people to know that they are not alone in enjoying sexual activity as they age or in experiencing sexual problems, some of which could be alleviated with medical attention. We hope it will improve patient education and help identify potentially treatable sexual problems.” </li></ul>
  6. 6. Physical Sexuality <ul><li>Most reported problems for men: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>36% erectile dysfunction (14% using medication – e.g. Viagra, Cialis, Levitra) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>28% lack of interest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>28% Climaxing too quickly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>75% anxiety about performance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Most reported problems for women </li></ul><ul><ul><li>43% Low desire/ body image issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>39% lack of vaginal lubrication/pain on intercourse </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>34% inability to reach orgasm </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Wheel – Physical Sexuality <ul><li>Postmenopausal women who kept their vaginal muscles in tone with kegel exercises, or by regular clitoral stimulation to orgasm, did not have the “vaginal dryness”(reported by 39%) or “low desire” (43%) that some women experience. </li></ul><ul><li>Men who reported two or more ejaculations a month had 33% lower rates of prostrate cancer </li></ul><ul><li>½ of the men and ¼ of the women reported masturbating. </li></ul><ul><li>More than half of those aged 50-85 said they gave or received oral sex, and the proportion of men to women matched up equally. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Wheel – Reproductive Anatomy <ul><li>Many older adults reported sexual problems; few had discussed sexuality with a physician </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fewer than 38% men, 22% women talked to doc about sex since 50. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>American men spend over a billion dollars annually to improve ED. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nearly 1 in 7 older men reported taking med to improve ED </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Medications with side effects can often be changed or discontinued as result of patient-physician communication </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Wheel – Reproductive Anatomy <ul><li>Underlying medical illnesses interfering with sexual activity: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>diabetes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>infections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>urogenital tract conditions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>cancer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>heart concerns (more mental than real) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All can be addressed with the help of health care professional (doctor, therapist) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Wheel – Reproductive Anatomy <ul><li>Older adults who can be helped by therapeutic interventions (medical and psycho/social therapists): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1 in 7 men who report taking medication for erectile dysfunction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>depression </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>social withdrawal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>those who withdraw from being sexual because of psycho/social or sexual fears </li></ul></ul>