Influence of Cognitive Status on the Sexual Life of 352 Elderly Italians aged 65-105 years
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Background: Various factors are considered to influence sexual behavior in the elderly, but the role played by preservation of adequate cognitive functioning has not been adequately explored. Objective: The aim of this research, conducted on 352 older adults aged between 65 and 105 years, was to identify the specific role played by cognitive functioning in sexual activity and sexual interest in the elderly. Methods: The data were collected from elderly people attending the surgeries of 21 general practitioners in the city of Padua (Italy). Analysis of sexual functioning was based on two items, from the LEIPAD questionnaire: 'Are you interested in sex?' and 'Do you have sexual relations?'. Subjects cognitive status was assessed objectively through the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and subjectively by the LEIPAD subscale on cognitive functioning. Results: Subjects who were sexually active and interested in sex were more highly represented among the married elderly. The elderly who reported being active and interested in sex were significantly younger and had a significantly superior educational level and MMSE score. Mean scores for cognitive functioning and all quality-of-life indicators were in general significantly better for the active and interested. Univariate logistic regression analysis indicated that a higher MMSE score and cognitive functioning score influenced the maintenance of sexual interest. Conclusions: One third of the subjects reported being still sexually active and 40% being still interested in sex. This study seems to suggest that a significant role may be played by cognitive functioning in the maintenance of sexual interest in the elderly, especially older females in whom this dimension is evidently linked to far more diversified experiences than their male peers.