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Sexual Activity and Sexual Satisfaction Among Older Adults in Four European Countries

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The aim of this article was to describe partnered and non-partnered sexual activity and sexual satisfaction in older men and women from Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and Portugal, and to explore sociodemographic correlates of sexual activity and satisfaction. Data were collected in 2016 using postal, anonymous questionnaires in probability samples of the population aged 60–75 years recruited by phone registers in Norway (676 men, 594 women), Denmark (530 men, 515 women), Belgium (318 men, 672 women), and Portugal (236 men, 273 women). In men, the percentage of sexually active participants in the past year ranged from 83% in Portugal to 91% in Norway. In women, the percentage of sexually active participants during the last year ranged from 61% in Belgium to 78% in Denmark. Regarding frequency of sexual intercourse activity during the past month, men in Norway, Denmark, and Belgium (23–24%) most often reported 2–3 times per month, whereas most men in Portugal (29%) reported 1–3 times per week. Masturbation was most commonly reported among Norwegian men (65%) and women (40%), and least commonly in Portugal. Concerning sexual satisfaction, across all countries, 40–60% of participants reported that they were sexually satisfied. Portuguese men and Danish women reported being most sexually satisfied. Having a partner was the most important positive predictor of sexual activity and sexual satisfaction in all subgroups except Portuguese men. In conclusion, partnered sexual activity was more frequent in the south of Europe, and solitary sexual activity more frequent in Northern Europe.

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  1. The sociodemographic variables were taken from the Swedish Sexual Behavior Study 1996 (Lewin et al., 2000), the British NATSAL-3 (Mitchell et al., 2013), and the Sexual Behavior and Risks of HIV Infection in Europe survey (Hubert et al., 1998). The psychological and somatic health indicators included the SF12 scale (Ware, Kosinski, & Keller, 1995), questions adapted from NATSAL-3 (Mitchell et al., 2013), the Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank (CAMB) Study (Avlund et al., 2014), Anxiety and Depression Scale (Søgaard & Bech, 2009), Loneliness Scale (Cacioppo et al., 2015), Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985), Body Evaluation Scale and Body Salience Scale (Moss & Rosser, 2012), and Emotional Intimacy Scale (Sinclair & Dowdy, 2006). Sexual attitudes were measured by 13 items from the SRA-Q-ELSA study (Lee et al., 2016). Indicators of sexual activity on the Internet were taken from the Norwegian Sex Survey 2008 (Træen & Daneback, 2012), help seeking items from Hinchliff and Gott’s (2011) study, indicators of sexual activity, experiences, and sexual functioning from Lee et al. (2016) and NATSAL-3 (Mitchell et al., 2013), and cuddling items from Heiman et al. (2011). With a few exceptions, in which slight revisions in wording were made to better fit the target population, we used the original items and question wording.


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Funding was provided by The Norwegian Research Council (Grant No. 250637).

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Correspondence to Bente Træen.

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Træen, B., Štulhofer, A., Janssen, E. et al. Sexual Activity and Sexual Satisfaction Among Older Adults in Four European Countries. Arch Sex Behav 48, 815–829 (2019).

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