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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research

How long will I love you? Sex and intimacy in later life

27 February 2017

CMIST’s Dr David Lee recently released a report which was widely picked up in the media. His report, released through the International Longevity Centre on 14 February 2017, focused on Sex and intimacy in later life.

What factors affect our experiences of our intimate relationships as we grow older? This report examines the sexual and intimate lives of older adults, using survey data of men and women aged 50 to 90+ living in England.

David Lee (University of Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing) and Josie Tetley (Manchester Metropolitan University) have examined relationships and intimacy in later life using data gathered by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

The report summarises the findings from the Sexual Relations and Activities Questionnaire (SRA-Q) that was used as part of the ELSA study and makes recommendations for practice and policy that can make a difference to the ways in which health professionals can better to support the sexual and intimate lives of older adults.

A video about David Lee's research on the subject is available on the University of Manchester YouTube channel.

Key recommendations:

  • Conversations around sex and older people need to be normalised – countering stereotypes and misconceptions will improve public health
  • Health professionals need to proactively engage with older people to better manage problems that impact on both individuals and couples sexual health and function
  • Positive sexuality and intimacy throughout the lifecourse is linked to higher levels of happiness and well-being – irrespective of age
  • Older people have a right to good sexual health care and should be able to easily access joined up services to help them meet that goal

The report received widespread media interest, featuring in the Guardian, The I, Manchester Evening News, GQ, on radio and on the Telegraph website amongst others:

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