Communicating with older adults about sexual issues: How are these issues handled by physicians with and without training in human sexuality?

Inbar Levkovich, Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan, Liat Ayalon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although sexuality is an important part of health and emotional well-being throughout the entire life cycle, including during old age, little is known about how physicians discuss or approach the topic of sexuality during later life. The present study examined the perspectives of two groups of physicians toward discussing sexuality with older patients: 17 physicians who did not have any training in human sexuality and 21 physicians who were certified as sex therapists. The interviews underwent thematic content analysis to identify and code major themes and patterns. Qualitative analysis of the interviews yielded three main themes: (a) discourse between physicians and older adults regarding sexuality, (b) diagnosing sexual dysfunction among older adults, and (c) treating sexual dysfunction among older adults. Physicians who were not trained in sex therapy did not regularly ask their older patients about sexual functioning and/or problems with sex, tended to diagnose sexual problems from a medical perspective, and offered medication as the main treatment for sexual problems. Physicians trained as sex therapists felt more comfortable discussing sex-related issues with their older patients and diagnosed sexual problems from a medical, social, dyadic and psychological perspective. Although they offered their older patients a greater variety of medication-oriented interventions than those without training in sexuality, they did not rush into such interventions and instead emphasised the importance of the psychological and relational aspects of sex. The present study highlights the importance of human sexuality training for physicians and points out the effects of such training on the discourse, diagnosis and treatment of sexual concerns in later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1326
Number of pages10
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research (Policy Research No. 2016/16).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Keywords

  • aging
  • health aging
  • physicians
  • sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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