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Biopsychosocial determinants of sexual health in older age: the role of health-related, relationship, and psychosexual factors.

BACKGROUND: Given the unprecedented aging of the population and the increased focus on overall well-being in older age, investigating the determining factors of sexual well-being in older adults becomes essential as it offers insights into promoting healthy aging and overall quality of life.

AIM: By applying the biopsychosocial model of sexuality in older age, we aimed to identify the role of biomedical and psychosocial factors in predicting sexual well-being in partnered older adults (≥55 years old).

METHODS: A total of 111 participants (mean [SD], 63.2 [5.96]) completed a self-report questionnaire assessing biopsychosocial dimensions. Bivariate correlational analyses and hierarchical multiple regression were conducted to investigate factors associated with sexual well-being. Health-related factors were entered into the first regression model. The second model included factors pertaining to relationship dimensions. Sexual beliefs were introduced in the third regression model.

OUTCOMES: Self-rated health, psychological distress, subjective cognitive decline, sexual beliefs, duration of the relationship, relationship satisfaction, and sexual well-being were assessed.

RESULTS: Findings from the hierarchical regression revealed that duration of relationship [t(104) = -3.07, P < .01], relationship satisfaction [t(104) = 8.49, P < .001], and age-related sexual beliefs [t(104) = -2.75, P < .01] were significant predictors of sexual well-being of partnered older adults [F(6, 104) = 22.77, P < .001, R2 = .57], after controlling for health-related factors. These findings suggest that relationship factors and sexual beliefs play a significant role in predicting sexual well-being of older adults, above and beyond health-related dimensions.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Interventional approaches aimed at promoting sexual well-being in older age might benefit from incorporating exercises that demystify age-related sexual beliefs, by normalizing changes that occur with aging and fostering positive attitudes toward sexual expression in older age; particularly for older adults in long-term relationships, relationship satisfaction must also be considered as an important intervention target.

STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS: Further investigation using longitudinal designs is required to examine the causal links between these factors and sexual well-being in older age.

CONCLUSION: Findings from this study underscore the role of relationship dimensions and age-related sexual beliefs for the sexual well-being of partnered older adults.

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