Knowledge about sexuality in elderly persons is limited, and normative data are lacking.
To determine the proportion of older men who are sexually active and to explore factors predictive of sexual activity.
Population-based cohort study.
Community-dwelling men from Perth, Western Australia, Australia.
3274 men aged 75 to 95 years.
Questionnaires from 1996 to 1999, 2001 to 2004, and 2008 to 2009 assessed social and medical factors. Sex hormones were measured from 2001 to 2004. Sexual activity was assessed by questionnaire from 2008 to 2009.
A total of 2783 men (85.0%) provided data on sexual activity. Sex was considered at least somewhat important by 48.8% (95% CI, 47.0% to 50.6%), and 30.8% (CI, 29.1% to 32.5%) had had at least 1 sexual encounter in the past 12 months. Of the latter, 56.5% were satisfied with the frequency of activity, whereas 43.0% had sex less often than preferred. In cross-sectional analyses, increasing age, partner’s lack of interest, partner’s physical limitations, osteoporosis, prostate cancer, diabetes, antidepressant use, and β-blocker use were independently associated with reduced odds of sexual activity. Living with a partner and having a non–English-speaking background were associated with increased odds. In longitudinal analyses, higher testosterone levels were associated with increased odds of being sexually active. Other factors were similar to the cross-sectional model.
Response bias may have influenced findings because sexuality can be a sensitive topic. Attrition may have resulted in a healthier-than-average sample of older men.
One half of elderly men consider sex important, and one third report being sexually active. Men’s health problems were associated with lack of sexual activity. Key modifiable risk factors include diabetes, depression, and medication use. Endogenous testosterone levels predict sexual activity, but the role of testosterone therapy remains uncertain.