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Promoting sexual health in older adults: Findings from two rapid reviews

Lookup NU author(s): Melanie StowellORCiD, Dr Stephanie Warwick, Catherine Richmond, Claire EastaughORCiD, Professor Barbara Hanratty, Professor Dawn CraigORCiD, Dr Gemma Frances SpiersORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2023 The Authors. Background: Sexual health throughout the life course is increasingly recognised as important to maintaining one's overall health, wellbeing, and relationships. We aimed to provide an overview of the evidence on sexual health needs and sexual health promotion in later life. Methods: We undertook two rapid reviews, drawing on systematic review evidence. Searches were conducted in Epistemonikos. Studies were eligible if they reported evidence about the sexual health needs of, or sexual health promotion interventions for, people aged 50+ years. Evidence was quality assessed and summarised in a narrative synthesis. Results: Fifteen systematic reviews were included in Review 1 (sexual health needs) and 12 in Review 2 (interventions). Key concerns and needs of older adults included the impacts of cultural stigma/misperceptions, barriers to sexual expression, and a need for tailored support in a welcoming environment. Key concerns and needs of health and social care professionals included mixed attitudes towards and knowledge of later-life sexuality and a need for more training and education. Approaches to promoting sexual health in later life included training and workshops for care home professionals, education for older people at risk of/living with HIV, and interventions to address sexual health-related symptoms of menopause. Gaps in the evidence from current reviews and methodological issues in primary studies were identified. Conclusion: Older people have specific needs relating to their sexual health. Health and social care professionals working with older people may benefit from education/training around sexuality in later life. Evidence on effective interventions and strategies is limited.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stowell M, Hall A, Warwick S, Richmond C, Eastaugh CH, Hanratty B, McDermott J, Craig D, Spiers GF

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Maturitas

Year: 2023

Volume: 177

Print publication date: 01/11/2023

Online publication date: 05/07/2023

Acceptance date: 01/07/2023

ISSN (print): 0378-5122

ISSN (electronic): 1873-4111

Publisher: Elsevier Ireland Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2023.107795

PubMed id: 37454470