• Sexual Function;
  • Older Adults;
  • Primary Care;
  • Patient–Physician Communication


Introduction.  Limited information is available regarding sexual functioning among adults aged 70 years and older.

Aims.  To assess sexual functioning among older men and women, and ascertain patient–physician communication patterns about sexual functioning.

Methods.  Prospective participants were approached prior to scheduled appointments with their primary care physician. In-depth sexual histories were obtained along with data on their demographic, medical, psychological, and cognitive status.

Main Outcome Measures.  Sexual functioning was assessed using standardized questionnaires, and simple yes/no questions were administered to ascertain information regarding patient–physician communication practices about sex.

Results.  Of the 74 eligible patients approached, 50 (68%) participated. The participants had a mean age ± standard deviation (SD) of 81 ± 6 years and most (56%) were women. Eighteen percent of the women and 41% of the men were sexually active. The most commonly reported sexual activity was intercourse for men and masturbation for women. Among the women, the most commonly cited reason for being sexually inactive was “no desire,” whereas for most men, it was “erectile dysfunction.” Sexual function scores for women were low across each category (lubrication, desire, orgasm, arousal, pain, and satisfaction.) For men, low sexual function scores were found in the domains of erectile function, orgasm, and overall satisfaction, but not desire. Only 4% of the women (vs. 36% of men) reported initiating a discussion about sexual function with their physician in the past year, whereas 7% of the women (vs. 32% of men) reported that their physician inquired about the topic in the preceding year. Finally, 32% of the women (vs. 86% of men) felt that physicians should initiate discussions about sexual function.

Conclusion.  In this study of older adults, a minority reported current sexual activity. Among sexually inactive women, most did not wish to resume activity, whereas desire for sexual activity remained high among men, despite substantial problems with erectile dysfunction. Smith LJ, Mulhall JP, Deveci S, Monaghan N, and Reid MC. Sex after seventy: A pilot study of sexual function in older persons. J Sex Med 2007;4;1247–1253.