Mapping the Perceived Sexuality of Heterosexual Men and Women in Mid- and Later Life: A Mixed-Methods Study

Ashley Macleod, Lucy Busija, Marita McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Introduction: There is currently limited research that examines the meaning of sexuality at midlife and later life. Aim: This study investigates how heterosexual men and women in mid- and later life perceive their sexuality and the factors that influence it. Methods: Group concept mapping was used to produce a conceptual map of the experience of sexuality for heterosexual adults ages 45 years and above. Group concept mapping data were collected using 6 open-ended survey questions that asked about sexuality, intimacy, and desire. Thematic analysis was used to examine how participants perceived their sexuality to have changed as they aged. Thematic analysis data were collected using a single open-ended survey question. Main Outcome Measure: Statements generated from 6 of the open-ended survey questions were rated by participants using a 5-point Likert scale for how important participants felt that each statement was to themselves personally. Participants responses to the seventh open-ended survey question were examined using thematic analysis to understand whether participants felt that their sexual experiences had changed over time and, if so, how they had changed. Results: Eight themes were identified across the different phases of group concept mapping. These were, in order of importance, partner compatibility, intimacy and pleasure, determinants of sexual desire, sexual expression, determinants of sexual expression, barriers to intimacy, sexual urges, and barriers to sexual expression. Seven areas of change were identified in terms of perceived changes to sexuality with age. These included changes to perspective, relationship dynamics, environment, behavior, body/function, sexual interest/desire, and sexual enjoyment. Conclusion: The results highlight the prioritization of interrelationship dynamics in mid- and later life sexuality over sexual functioning and sexual urges. These findings may facilitate the development of new perspectives on how sexuality is experienced in the later years and provide new avenues for intervention in situations where sexual problems arise. Macleod A, Busija L, McCabe M. Mapping the Perceived Sexuality of Heterosexual Men and Women in Mid- and Later Life: A Mixed-Methods Study. Sex Med 2019; XX:XXX–XXX.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-99
Number of pages16
JournalSexual Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Aging
  • Heterosexuality
  • Mixed-Methods Approach
  • Psychology
  • Sexuality

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