Sexual behaviors, condom use, and sexual health of Americans over 50: implications for sexual health promotion for older adults

J Sex Med. 2010 Oct;7 Suppl 5:315-29. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02013.x.


Introduction: In the contemporary U.S., men and women are living longer and healthier lives. As such, many people spend greater portions of their lives as sexually active individuals. Yet, little is known about the myriad of ways that older adults experience their sexual lives.

Aim: This study sought to assess the context and frequency of sexual behaviors, condom use, sexual pleasure, and sexual experience of men and women over age 50.

Methods: Information regarding the sexual experiences of a nationally representative sample of men and women over age 50 within the past year was examined.

Main outcome measures: Sexual behavior over the past year was assessed in relation to several situational and contextual characteristics (e.g., event location, type of partner, health status, condom use). Participants were also asked about their experience (i.e., pleasure, arousal, pain, lubrication/erectile difficulties, and orgasm) during their most recent partnered sexual event. Bivariate or ordinal logistic regression models were used to investigate the relationship of age, health and partner status to sexual frequency and experience.

Results: Although sizable proportions (20-30%) of both men and women remained sexually active well into their 80s age was related to a lower likelihood of solo and most partnered sexual behaviors. When controlling for age, relationship status, and health remained significant predictors of select sexual behaviors. The participant's evaluation of their most recent sexual experience in terms of arousal, erectile difficulty, and orgasm all declined with age. Health status was related to men's evaluation of the experience. Relationship status was the most consistent predictor of women's evaluation of the experience. Condom use rates remained low for participants across age groups.

Conclusion: Many older adults continue be sexually active well into advanced age (80+). Thus, providers need to be attentive to the diverse sexual health needs of older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Masturbation / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Orgasm
  • Pleasure*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological
  • Social Marketing