Sexuality and Ageing: Sexual function and satisfaction

This project seeks to explore the question: ‘Do individuals with positive and functioning sexual, intimate relationships age more successfully than those who have less successful, or are lacking such relationships?’

Sexual relationships and sexual health are increasingly recognised as having a positive impact on quality of life and emotional wellbeing throughout the lifecourse, with a growing body of research beginning to reveal that sexual activity and sexual satisfaction are positively related to better overall health and increased lifespan.

However, very little is known about the broader impacts and relative importance of sexual relationships on the ageing process more generally.

To understand the impact sexuality has on the ageing process requires broad-based research. With our ageing population it is important to describe the range of ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ sexual activities, concerns and problems in order to help predict future health service and specialist needs relating to sexual health. The project analyses data on sexuality from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

Project aims

  • Describe the sexual norms of community-dwelling older men and women in England.
  • Derive representative statistics on sexuality among older adults.
  • Identify how sexuality relates to health and wellbeing.
  • Characterise the associations between a broad range of biopsychosocial factors and sexuality.
  • Discover whether early-life and events throughout life affect sexuality in later life.

Principal Investigator

Dr David Lee, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester


Funder and funding periods

Age UK Research Fellowship, June 2013 to June 2016

External partnerships

The project has established collaborations with the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP) and the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL).