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Healthy sexual aging

A mixed-method study of sexual function and sexual well-being in older European adults

Illustration: Lisa Aisato

About the project

In Europe, older adults are a growing group of citizens that is thought to have more sexual difficulties with increasing age. While sexuality is long believed to be unimportant for older men and women, there are reasons - due to for instance cultural changes - to believe that current and future older adults will value their sexual health more than those from previous generations. Health authorities in European countries are gradually realizing that a growing number of older adults will regard their sexual health and sexual well-being as an important issue, even as a human right. Currently, there is a lack of empirical data about how older adults experience and cope with the physical, psychological, and relational changes that affect their sexual health.


The project aims to provide in culture-specific knowledge that will enable policy makers and health professionals to better react to the challenges associated with older adults' sexual health and well-being. In addition, we propose to design evidence-based education and intervention programs for: (a) health professionals in geriatric care; and (b) older individuals and couples struggling with sexual health related issues. It is known that European countries differ in terms of sexual cultures and the social organization of sexuality, and these differences are historically rooted. For example, North- and South European countries strongly differ in sexual norms, attitudes and behaviours based on sociocultural differences in terms of gender roles and gender equality.

Preliminary data from Norway can tell us something about how sexually active the older adults are. In the recently conducted survey, we used a broad definition of sexuality, and asked a representative sample of 60-75 year old Norwegians if they had had some form of sexual activity last year. As much as 91% men and 74% women answered yes to the question. The gender difference is explained by the fact that more women than men in this age group live alone.


The project is financed by the Research Council of Norway (FRIHUMSAM - Researcher Project) 2016 - 2020.


The research project is a collaboration between the Department of Psychology and partners at University of Zagreb, University of Southampton, University of Sheffield, University of Copenhagen, University of Leuven, ISPA-University Institute Portugal and The Centre for Welfare and Labour Research, Norway.


  • Nantje Fischer; Bente Træen & Gert Martin Hald (2018). Predicting Partnered Sexual Activity among Older Adults in Four European Countries: The Role of Attitudes, Health and Relationship Factors. Sexual and Relationship Therapy.  ISSN 1468-1994.
  • Bente Træen; Aleksandar Stulhofer; Tanja Jurin & Gert Martin Hald (2018). Seventy-five years old and still going strong: Stability and change in sexual interest and sexual enjoyment in elderly men and women across Europe. International Journal of Sexual Health.  ISSN 1931-7611.
  • Bente Træen; Aleksandar Stulhofer; Erick Janssen; Ana Carvalheira; Gert Martin Hald; Theis Lange & Cynthia Graham (2018). Sexual Activity and Sexual Satisfaction among Older Adults in Four European Countries. Archives of Sexual Behavior.  ISSN 0004-0002.  s 1- 15
  • Aleksandar Stulhofer; Sharron Hinchliff; Tanja Jurin; Gert Martin Hald & Bente Træen (2018). Successful Aging and Changes in Sexual Interest and Enjoyment among Older European Men and Women. Journal of Sexual Medicine.  ISSN 1743-6095.  15, s 1393- 1402
  • Bente Træen; Ana Carvalheira; Gert Martin Hald; Theis Lange & Ingela Lundin Kvalem (2018). Attitudes Towards Sexuality in Older Men and Women Across Europe: Similarities, Differences, and Associations with Their Sex Lives. Sexuality & Culture.  ISSN 1095-5143.
  • Bente Træen; Gert Martin Hald; Cynthia Graham; Paul Enzlin; Erick Janssen; Ingela Lundin Kvalem; Ana Carvalheira & Aleksandar Stulhofer (2017). Sexuality in Older Adults (65+)?An Overview of the Literature, Part 1: Sexual Function and its Difficulties. International Journal of Sexual Health.  ISSN 1931-7611.  29, s 1- 10
  • Bente Træen; Ana Carvalheira; Ingela Lundin Kvalem; Aleksandar Stulhofer; Erick Janssen; Cynthia Graham; Gert Martin Hald & Paul Enzlin (2017). Sexuality in Older Adults (65+)—An Overview of the Recent Literature, Part 2: Body Image and Sexual Satisfaction. International Journal of Sexual Health.  ISSN 1931-7611.  29, s 11- 21

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  • Bente Træen (2018). Eldre og seksualitet - status på forskning.
  • Nantje Fischer; Bente Træen & Aleksandar Stulhofer (2018). The Mechanisms between Sexual Interest and Sexual Satisfaction among Older Partnered Adults in Europe: A Moderated Mediation Model.
  • Sidsel Schaller; Bente Træen & Ingela Lundin Kvalem (2018). Barriers and facilitating elements in help seeking in Norwegian interviewees' accounts.
  • Erick Janssen; Paul Enzlin & Bente Træen (2018). Predictors of sexual and relationship satisfaction in European couples and individuals, with emphasis on the role of physical intimacy and nonsexual touch.
  • Ingela Lundin Kvalem; Ana Carvalheira & Bente Træen (2018). Healthy sexual aging: Body image and sexual satisfaction - A comparison across four European countries.
  • Ana Carvalheira; Cynthia Graham & Bente Træen (2018). Sexual avoidance among older adults across Europe.
  • Bente Træen; Aleksandar Stulhofer; Erick Janssen; Cynthia Graham; Gert Martin Hald; Paul Enzlin & Ana Carvalheira (2016). Healthy sexual aging: Sexual function and sexual well-being in older European adults.  s 61- 63

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Published Aug. 9, 2016 12:23 PM - Last modified Jan. 16, 2018 1:55 PM