Sexual Health of Older Patients: Attitudes and Perceptions of Healthcare Providers

Mary Alice O'Brien, St. John Fisher College


Background: Recent research has demonstrated an alarming rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among sexually active heterosexual individuals > age 40 years . Literature suggests that healthcare providers give minimal attention to the sexual health of their older patients and admit to decreased confidence and comfort in broaching the subject of sex with these patients and may not include STDs in a list of differential diagnoses when patients present with uro-genital or other symptoms. Objective: To explore healthcare providers‟ perceptions, awareness, and level of comfort in managing their older patients‟ sexual health. Older patient : individual > age 40 years Methods: Ten health care providers participated in focused guided interviews. Themes, interactions, and sequences in conversations were examined. Results: All of the practitioners indicated sexual health of older patients to be an important aspect of healthcare, but agreed the barriers to discussion with their patients were lack of time in a patient encounter, age and gender of the practitioner, length of time in practice for the practitioner, lack of appropriate education of the practitioner and perceived lack of medical priority. Conclusions: Further research is warranted for this population and increased educational opportunities should be presented to practitioners to decrease barriers to dialogue with their older patients concerning sexual health.