Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Predictors of Quality of Life, Sexual Intercourse, and Sexual Satisfaction among Active Older Adults

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Predictors of Quality of Life, Sexual Intercourse, and Sexual Satisfaction among Active Older Adults

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: Relatively little is known about the sexual behaviors of older people, and the relationship between quality of life and sexuality has not been fully explored. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of sociological, cultural, and psychological factors to further explain variance beyond biological changes that influence participation in sexual intercourse, sexual satisfaction, and overall quality of life. Methods: Data were collected using a mixed-mode approach to optimize participant response and coverage. Residents of a large active retirement community served as the study participants. Results: Logistic regression identified a set of biopsychosocial variables which significantly distinguished between those who participate and do not participate in sexual intercourse. Multiple regression procedures identified sets of variables that significantly predicted sexual satisfaction and quality of life. Discussion: Overall findings add to the existing body of literature on aging, sexual health, and quality of life. Translation to Health Education Practice: Health professionals should develop interventions that provide education about sexuality to enhance sexual satisfaction and quality of life among community dwelling older adults.

BACKGROUND

The population growth rate for older adults has rapidly exceeded the growth rate of the United States population as a whole. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) (l) reports that the older population in 2030 is projected to be twice as large as their counterparts in 2000, growing from 35 million to 71.5 million, representing nearly 20% of the national population. This shift of age demographics increases the importance of better understanding factors that contribute to the adaptation and well-being of the older population. One of the most important factors contributing to quality of life among older adults is sexuality. (2,3) However, according to recent literature, little is known about the sexual behaviors and sexual functioning of older people, (4) and the relationship between quality of life and sexuality has not been fully explored. (3)

Quality of life is a subjective and complex concept that can be measured using multiple dimensions. Considerable research on quality of life has been conducted among older adults. (3,5-8) Factors identified in the literature that influence older adults' quality of life include age, gender, education, marital status, health status, physical functioning, social relationships, psychological well-being, and sexual activity. Sexuality and sexual activities have not been frequently investigated variables in studies of quality of life among older adults. Sexuality has been defined as a multidimensional and holistic phenomenon with biological, emotional, psychological, intellectual, spiritual, and sociocultural components. (9,10) Sexuality is a major aspect of intimacy and incorporates components such as sexual desire, activity, function, attitudes, beliefs, values about identity, and self-concept.

Much of the previous literature is based on a biological or medical perspective, which asserts that sexual behaviors, desire, and satisfaction are reduced and eliminated with age due to physical transformations, hormonal changes, and chronic illnesses. (11) Many older adults who have sexual relations benefit from an important source of reinforcement and pleasure. It has been reported that sexuality helps preserve psychological and physical well-being, which indirectly contributes to the reduction in physical and mental health problems, health care costs, and may potentially increase life satisfaction. (12-14) A common misconception is that with age all sexual encounters cease and people become nonsexual beings. Empirical evidence suggests that physiological changes affect the intensity, frequency, and the quality of sexual response for both men and women; however, the capacity to enjoy sexual activities is not altered with age. …

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