Sexual activity and risk-taking in later life

Health Soc Care Community. 2001 Mar;9(2):72-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2524.2001.00285.x.


The primary study objective was to identify the prevalence of sexual activity and sexual risk-taking behaviour among a sample of older community-based adults. Secondary objectives included gathering data about past experiences of consultations regarding sexual health issues with general practitioners (GPs) and at genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics, and exploring participants' STI and HIV/AIDS-related information needs. Individuals over the age of 50 were identified from four electoral wards within Sheffield, UK by means of a postal screen based on the electoral register. Respondents self completed a short postal questionnaire. Three hundred and nineteen individuals aged over 50 years selected at random from the general population responded. Approximately 80% of respondents were currently sexually active and 7% engaged in behaviours that may place them at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Risk takers were typically male, aged between 50 and 60 years and married. Being male was also related to reporting current or past sexual health concerns. In total, of 75 respondents reporting such concerns, two thirds had discussed these concerns with their GP or attended a GUM clinic. Levels of satisfaction with such consultations were generally high, but declined with increasing age. Overall, most participants felt they had not received very much information about STIs and HIV, and about one quarter reported that they would like to receive more information on these topics. These data have implications for all health and social care professionals who work with older people and indicate a potential need for education to help professionals meet the sexual health needs of their older patients/clients. Further implications for sexual health promotion and the need for additional research in this field are also discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Prevalence
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sex Education*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom