Gosh it’s such a busy time of the semester.
With multiple assignments and exams happening within the same few weeks, the temptation to rush one’s work is definitely there.
However, I am a baby psychologist who is determined to be more than just “qualified”; I want to be good. In keeping with this, always read way more research than I need to in order to complete an assignment. I don’t just read “enough”; I let my interest lead me happily down the rabbit hole. This past few weeks, I’ve been reading almost entirely about sex and sexuality for older adults. This is part of my class on therapeutic practice with older adults.
I’ve read about a few studies this week, but the one that stands out is a 2020 paper by Levkovich, Gewirtz-Mayden & Ayalon called “Communicating with older adults about sexual issues: How are these issues handled by physicians with and without training in human sexuality?”
It’s a global conversation. The lit review discusses the reading (and research) by the authors which includes research out of (but probably not limited to) Australia, Canada, Sweden, Israel, the US, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, France and New Zealand. Are doctors all over the world feeling a little shy about asking their older patients about relationships, intimacy, sexuality and sexual function unless they have specialist training?
The present study kept the sample small. Of the 38 physicians interviewed, 17 “did not have any training in human sexuality” and 21 of them were “certified as sex therapists”.
Aside from my surprise that there are any physicians at all who are not trained in human sexuality, I was interested to know if training is the difference. It would certainly seem so. Furthermore, the physicians who had not received sex therapy training tended to reach straight for medication as their prime treatment plan for sexual problems. That’s not good.
In an Australian context, the authors actually mentioned an Aussie study (Malta, et al., 2018) in their lit review which “showed that that the GPs had several constraints to discussing sexual health related to their perceptions that their older patients either did not have sex or were not interested in addressing this topic.”
The paper I’m writing promises in the abstract to relate the issues for older people in context with the broader Australian healthcare and social frameworks, so I’ll be reading that one later tonight.
In any case, it’s pretty sad to me that this issue is still so stuck in the fifties. I have certainly decided that I will not be one of those clinicians who misses a great deal of a client/patient’s potential story for want of asking about relationships, intimacy and sex.
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