Pathways to help-seeking for sexual difficulties in older adults: qualitative findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3)

Hinchcliff, S., Lewis, R. , Wellings, K., Datta, J. and Mitchell, K. (2021) Pathways to help-seeking for sexual difficulties in older adults: qualitative findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Age and Ageing, 50(2), pp. 546-553. (doi: 10.1093/ageing/afaa281) (PMID:33507242) (PMCID:PMC7936020)

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Abstract

Background: Older adults are at an increased risk of sexual difficulties due to ageing and chronic health conditions. While they experience barriers to seeking and receiving help for sexual difficulties there is a dearth of research about the help-seeking journey. Objective: To explore decision-making in context; particularly, the reasons why older adults do, or do not, seek help for sexual difficulties. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 men and 12 women aged 58–75 who reported having a health condition, disability or medication that had affected their sex life in the last year. Participants were part of the third British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Data were analysed thematically. Results: Help-seeking was rarely a predictable or linear process. Participants tended to wait and see if the sexual difficulty got better on its own or improved as a result of lifestyle changes. An often-lengthy period of thinking, researching and planning could end with a decision to seek professional help, to not seek help, or do nothing for now. A significant barrier was concern about the interaction of medicines prescribed for the sexual difficulty with those already taken for chronic health conditions. Patient fear of not being taken seriously and doctor reticence to ask thwarted potential conversations. Help-seeking journeys often ended without resolution, even when professional help was sought. Conclusions: To give patients and practitioners permission to raise the topic, suggestions include providing patients with a pre-consultation card which lists topics they would like to talk about, including sexual issues.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Natsal-3 is a collaboration between University College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, NatCen Social Research, Public Health England (formerly the Health Protection Agency), and the University of Manchester. Natsal-3 was supported by grants from the Medical Research Council (G0701757) and the Wellcome Trust (084840), with contributions from the Economic and Social Research Council and Department of Health. KRM and RL are supported by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council [grant number MC_UU_12017/11], and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office [grant number SPHSU11].
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mitchell, Professor Kirstin and Lewis, Dr Ruth
Authors: Hinchcliff, S., Lewis, R., Wellings, K., Datta, J., and Mitchell, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Age and Ageing
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0002-0729
ISSN (Online):1468-2834
Published Online:28 January 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Age and Ageing 50(2): 546-553
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727631SPHSU Core Renewal: Relationships & Health Improvement Research ProgrammeLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/11IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
Chief Scientist Office (CSO)SPHSU11