Intended for healthcare professionals


Sexuality and older people

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 08 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a239
  1. Peggy J Kleinplatz, associate professor and clinical professor
  1. 1Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1N 6N5
  1. kleinpla{at}

    Doctors should ask patients, regardless of age, about sex

    Much of the literature on sexuality in elderly people focuses on sexual problems, leaving clinicians with the impression that older adults have either dismal or non-existent sex lives. Few data are available on “normal” sexuality in elderly people, let alone the entire spectrum of sexual expression including optimal sexuality.1 Beckman and colleagues’ linked study makes a welcome contribution to the limited literature on sexuality in older people.2

    A major contribution of Beckman and colleagues’ study is that it focuses on sexual attitudes and behaviour in a sample of people—not patients—who are not seeking treatment for sexual dysfunction or attending a general medical clinic. The methodology is strong, using consistent interviewing techniques over a 30 year period to produce four comparable sets of cross sectional data from 1971 to 2001.

    Current knowledge suggests that sexual functioning and frequency decline with age and that sex decreases in …

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