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Older adults' experiences of sexual difficulties: Qualitative findings from The English Longitudinal Study on Ageing (ELSA)

Tetley, Josephine and Hinchliff, S and Lee, D and Nazroo, J (2017) Older adults' experiences of sexual difficulties: Qualitative findings from The English Longitudinal Study on Ageing (ELSA). Journal of Sex Research, 55 (2). pp. 152-163. ISSN 0022-4499

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Abstract

There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that sexual activity is important to the quality of life of older adults, and that it can be influenced by physical, psychological, and social factors. However, older adults’ experiences of sexual difficulties remain relatively unexplored. This article draws on qualitative data collected as part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Participants answered a Sexual Relationships and Activities Questionnaire (SRA-Q), which included an open comment box for further details, 1,084 (1/7) of which were completed. These data were analyzed using Template Analysis, and findings on the experiences of sexual difficulties are presented in this article. Sexual difficulties were contextualized within the couple relationship and could be detrimental to the relationship, particularly if the partner would not seek professional help. Participants reported that sexual difficulties could also have a negative impact on psychological well-being, described mainly as frustration, depression, and sadness. For some participants the supportive nature of their relationship buffered these impacts. Few had sought professional help; those who had reported helpful and unhelpful experiences. These findings add to the limited evidence base and have implications for health care in the context of global aging and a growing recognition of older adults’ sexual rights.

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