Barriers to older adults seeking sexual health advice and treatment: A scoping review

Ivanka Ezhova*, Laura Savidge, Clare Bonnett, Juliet Cassidy, Anthony Okwuokei, Tommy Dickinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Sexual health is an integral part of overall health in older age. Research consistently reports that heterosexual and queer older people tend not to disclose sexual concerns and difficulties which increases the risks for sexually transmitted diseases. Older people are often absent from policies and information programmes and healthcare providers experience difficulties in initiating conversations around sexual health and history. Objectives: To identify what are the barriers that stop older people seeking sexual health advice and treatment. Design and method: A scoping review methodology was employed. Published and unpublished literature was scoped through development of a research question, identification of potentially relevant studies, selection of relevant studies using an iterative team approach, charting data, collating, summarising and reporting findings, and considering the implications of study findings for further research. Data sources: Electronic databases searches were run to identify published and unpublished literature, including Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, ASSIA, Social Sciences, RCN and Cochrane Libraries. Additional studies were located through hand searching. Results: Twelve studies from: the USA (n = 6); the UK (n = 3); Australia (n = 2); and one shared paper between New Zealand and UK met the inclusion criteria. Four barriers that stop older people seeking sexual health advice and treatment were identified, including (1) Cultural and societal views and beliefs toward sexual health; (2) Stigma, embarrassment and discrimination; (3) Lack of education and training of healthcare professionals; (4) Quality of relationship between patients and health professionals. Conclusion: Barriers to seeking and receiving advice and treatment for sexual health in later life clearly exist and are both related to cultural and social factors. Overall, the papers reviewed in this scoping review indicate that healthcare providers are reluctant to initiate conversations around sexual health or offer appropriate advice or clinical tests, and that older people tend to be hesitant to seek medical help. Later life age groups independently from their sexual orientation represent a hidden population and are absent from sexual health campaigns and government policies. Efforts need to be made by influential institutions and healthcare providers to recognise sexuality in older age and give older people the opportunity to open up regarding their sexual health and experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103566
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Healthcare
  • LGBT elderly
  • Older adults
  • Patient-healthcare professional communication
  • Queer older people
  • Sexual health
  • Sexual health education
  • Sexually transmitted diseases test
  • Stigma


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