The association of physical and mental health with sexual activity in older adults in a retirement community

J Sex Med. 2013 Nov;10(11):2671-8. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12308. Epub 2013 Aug 23.


Introduction: Understanding sexual behavior is important when evaluating the health needs of older adults. Little research has addressed the effect of specific health conditions on sexual inactivity in this growing population.

Aim: The study aims to assess the association of mental and physical health conditions with sexual inactivity among adults 55 and older living in The Villages, Florida.

Methods: Exposure data for 22 self-reported health conditions were assessed in relation to sexual inactivity in 22,654 participants ages 55 and older, including 1,879 participants over age 80 in a community-based cross-sectional study. Logistic regression analyses were conducted separately for men and women to evaluate the likelihood of being sexually active for each health condition. Covariates included age, race, education, income, self-reported overall health, and marital status.

Main outcome measures: The odds ratio and 95% confidence intervals for sexual activity status were calculated separately for men and women.

Results: Fifty-five percent of men and 45% of women reported being sexually active. Significant positive correlates of sexual activity included walking at least 1-2 times per week, participating in at least two registered clubs, engaging in physical and social activities, no tobacco use, fewer medications, increased alcohol consumption, and reporting a good quality of life, psychological well-being, or social support. Sexual inactivity was significantly related to cancer, bladder/bowl problems, major surgery, poor vision, mental health conditions, and cardiovascular disease and its risk factors including diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Additional associations with sexual inactivity included hearing loss and dementia for men, and dermatologic conditions, problems with the joints, bone or back, gastrointestinal problems, alcohol misuse, chronic wound care, and gum disease in women.

Conclusions: Mental and physical health conditions have very similar associations with sexual inactivity in men and women. Increased sexual activity was associated with positive physical, social, and emotional health indicators.

Keywords: Aging; Epidemiology; Risk Factors; Sexual Behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Assisted Living Facilities
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*