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The impact of experiences of ageism on sexual activity and interest in later life



Experiences of ageism are associated with poorer health outcomes. Sexual activity and interest are areas in life where the impact of ageism may also be evident as popular culture often depicts the older body as asexual, undesirable or sexually impotent. We explore the possible links between experiences of ageism and sexual activity/interest in later life using data from a study of Australians aged 60+. We explored characteristics of those who were more likely to have experienced ageism (measured using the Ageism Survey) and the relationships between experiences of ageism and measures of sexual interest/activity in later life (N = 1,817). Experiences of ageism were greater among those without a partner, unemployed participants, those with lower incomes and poorer self-rated health. Adjusting for these differences, experiences of ageism were more likely to be reported by those who had not had sex in the past two years and were not sure about their hopes/plans for sex in the future. Those who reported their sexual interest had increased or decreased since 60 also reported greater levels of ageism experience, as did those who wanted to have sex more frequently in the future. Ageism appears to impact sexual activity and interest in different ways. It is critical that social policy aims to reverse attitudes that reinforce the view of the ageist asexual and unattractive older body or person.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Wendy Heywood, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, 215 Franklin Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000, Australia E-mail:


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The impact of experiences of ageism on sexual activity and interest in later life



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