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British Medical Journal
Objective To study secular trends in self reported sexual behaviour among 70 year olds. Design Cross sectional survey. Settings Four samples representative of the general population in Gothenburg, Sweden. Participants 1506 adults (946 women, 560 men) examined in 1971-2, 1976-7, 1992-3, and 2000-1. Main outcome measures Sexual intercourse, attitudes to sexuality in later life, sexual dysfunctions, and marital satisfaction. Results From 1971 to 2000 the proportion of 70 year olds reporting sexual intercourse increased among all groups: married men from 52% to 68% (P=0.002), married women from 38% to 56% (P=0.001), unmarried men from 30% to 54% (P=0.016), and unmarried women from 0.8% to 12% (P<0.001). Men and women from later birth cohorts reported higher satisfaction with sexuality, fewer sexual dysfunctions, and more positive attitudes to sexuality in later life than those from earlier birth cohorts. A larger proportion of men (57% v 40%, P<0.001) and women (52% v 35%, P<0.001) reported very happy relationships in 2000-1 compared with those in 1971-2. Sexual debut before age 20 increased in both sexes: in men from 52% to 77% (P<0.001) and in women from 19% to 64% (P<0.001). Conclusion Self reported quantity and quality of sexual experiences among Swedish 70 year olds has improved over a 30 year period. Attitudes to sexuality changed dramatically in Western societies during the 20th century. During that time changing patterns of sexual behaviour were reported in adolescence and young adulthood, such as earlier age of first sexual intercourse.1 2 3 Knowledge about sexual behaviour in elderly people (70 year olds) is limited and even less is known about secular trends in sexual behaviour in this age group. Most elderly participants in surveys on sexual behaviour developed their views during the early part of the 20th century and could be expected to have different views from those born later. The Duke longitudinal study, carried out in the 1950s and 1960s, suggested secular trends in sexual activity among elderly people on the basis of a relatively small number of participants.4 A recent study (2005-6)5 reported a higher frequency of sexual activity in elderly people than that reported in studies from the mid-1900s,2 4 6 7 8 9 but the disparity could be due to methodological differences among these studies. We examined secular trends in sexual behaviour (intercourse, age at sexual debut, sexual satisfaction, some sexual dysfunctions) and attitudes to sexuality in later life among four samples representative of the general population of 70 year olds from Gothenburg, Sweden, who were examined using identical methods in 1971-2, 1976-7, 1992-3, and 2000-1. Sample populationsThe multidisciplinary H70 studies (the longitudinal gerontological and geriatric population studies in Gothenburg) started in 1971-2 to study health and health related factors in a sample of 70 year olds from Gothenburg, Sweden. The sample was representative of 70 year olds living in Gothenburg and included those living at home and in institutions. Representative population samples of 70 year olds living in Gothenburg were also surveyed in 1976-7, 1992-3, and 2000-1, to study secular trends in health and health related factors. The samples were systematically obtained from the Swedish population register, which contains the names and addresses of all Swedish residents. Questions on sexual behaviour were asked during a psychiatric examination. Data from each examination year are cross sectional. Sample 1—70 year olds born between 1 July 1901 and 30 June 1902 on dates ending with 2, 5, or 8 were invited to a health examination in 1971-2.10 The people were numbered consecutively from 1 to 5. Those with numbers 1 and 2 (n=460) were invited to take part in a psychiatric examination. Of these, 392 (85.2%) participated (166 men, 226 women). The sample has been described in detail previously.11 Sample 2—70 year olds born between 1 July 1906 and 30 June 1907 on dates ending with 2, 5, or 8 were invited to a health examination in 1976-7. The selection procedure was the same as for the first sample. Of 513 people invited, 404 (78.8%) participated in a psychiatric examination (177 men, 227 women).12 Sample 3—70 year old women born in 1922 on days 6, 12, 18, 24, or 30 were invited to a health examination in 1992-3. Of 381 women invited for a psychiatric examination, 249 (65.2%) participated. Sample 4—70 year olds born in 1930 on days 3, 6, 12, 18, 21, 24, or 30 were invited to a health examination in 2000-1. Of 767 invited, 500 (65.2%) participated in the psychiatric examination (229 men, 271 women). On the basis of information from the Swedish population register responders and non-responders in each of the samples were similar for sex, marital status, and three year mortality rate (table 1). Responders and non-responders in the first two samples were further compared for income, municipal rent allowance, previous outpatient or inpatient psychiatric care, and registration with the Temperance Board for alcohol misuse. No significant differences existed between responders and non-responders for these variables.11 12 Responders and non-responders in the last two samples were compared for inpatient psychiatric care during the past two years, according to the Swedish hospital discharge register. No differences were found.
British Medical Journal. (2008) Secular trends in self reported sexual activity and satisfaction in Swedish 70 year olds [Online]. Available from: http://www.thehealthwell.info/node/6147 [Accessed: 30th March 2017].