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Study: Improve sexual health for older people

A greater focus on older people's sexual health is needed, according to a study published in The Lancet.

Researchers from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine interviewed more than 15,000 people ages 16-74.

By comparing their results to previous data, the researchers found that sexual lifestyles in Britain have changed substantially over the past 60 years. 

And sexual activity appears to be continuing into later in life. Now, 82% of men and 77% of women reported at least one sexual partner of the opposite sex in the past year. 

The proportion decreased with age, as did the range of sexual practices. 

In women, the number of male partners over the lifetime has increased, as has the number who have had sex with another woman. 

The researchers said: “Sexual lifestyles in Britain have changed substantially in the past 60 years, with changes in behaviour seeming greater in women than men. The continuation of sexual activity into later life—albeit reduced in range and frequency—emphasises that attention to sexual health and wellbeing is needed throughout the life course.” 

Natika Halil, director of health and wellbeing at the Family Planning Agency said: “The survey confirms what FPA has been hearing about for a long time from many of the people who we speak with - particularly through our Middle Aged Spread campaign - sex does not stop when you turn 50 and yet we have no nationally collated indicators which cover the sexual health of anyone over the age of 24. 

“This new data is extremely valuable in supporting people of all ages. As it also highlights that older age groups are not finding appropriate services available for their needs and this is a genuine problem, when, as the survey also indicates, very few men and women actually feel able to seek help from professionals about their sexual health.”

A summary of the study is available on The Lancet website