Patrice A Rabathaly1, Vijay Kumar Chattu2
1Department of Social and Environmental Health Research, Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
2Department of Para Clinical Sciences, Public Health Unit, Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago
Our sexuality and sexual health is affected by physiological-, pharmacological-, psychosocial-, and illness-related changes as we age. Physiological changes in men can cause less firm erections due to narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the penis, and in women, the vagina can become shorter, narrower, and less lubricated. Pharmacological and medical interventions may affect libido in both men and women by decreasing overall sexual desire resulting in a diminished interest in sex over time. Illnesses more prevalent among middle-aged and older adults including diabetes can also influence sexual function, such as increased erectile dysfunction among men and lack of sexual arousal in women. Societal changes, including increased rates of divorce, use of the internet to find sexual partners, suggest that older populations are also at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Even though the World Health Organization’s definition of sexual health contains no age limits, most sexual health policies, services, and interventions target people from adolescence to early childbearing years. Many people continue to be sexually active in later years, yet health promotion and services target the young (under 25 years), with little opportunity for prevention, treatment, or positive sexual health promotion in over 45 s. Sexual dysfunction, STIs are an increasing public health issue among middle-aged and older adults but are not considered a priority for surveillance in sexual healthcare. This review aims to examine how sexual health is affected by aging and why sexual health among people aged 45 years and above is of public health importance.
Keywords: Aging, middle-aged, old aged, sexual dysfunction, sexual health, sexuality.