Reasons people refrain from sex in later life

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been an increase in research on sexual activity in later life, yet far less is known about the actual perceptions and experiences of older adults who refrain from sexual activity. In the current study, a thematic analysis was conducted to identify patterns in semi-structured interviews with 47 older adults, aged 60-91. The analysis yielded seven themes that describe why older adults refrain from sex: 1) avoiding confronting sexual dysfunctions, 2) avoiding confronting the aging body, 3) avoiding performance anxiety, 4) being uninterested in sexual activity, 5) taking time to grieve the loss of a partner, 6) avoiding judgment, and 7) seeing sexuality as evolving and changing. Themes were organized according to the bio-psycho-social perspective and based on the axis of personal (self-focused) and interpersonal (partner-focused) motives. It is perfectly acceptable for people to refrain from sexual activity for their own reasons. However, if older adults want to remain sexually active, they should receive complete information about the many possibilities of treating different sexual problems in later life and about the many ways, beyond sexual penetration, one can enjoy sexual activity even in old age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-207
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Sex and Marital Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Sex
  • biopsychosocial model
  • later life
  • older adults
  • qualitative methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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