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Sandra Rasmussen


The number of adults aged 65 years and over has been rising quickly, as has the rate of new onset sexually transmitted diseases within this population. Discussions of sexual health between physicians and older adults are currently lacking in frequency and effectiveness. Using the foundation of stereotype embodiment theory, the purpose of this study was to identify the factors that predict frequency of discussing sexual health with older adult patients. A comparative sample of geriatric physicians and family practitioners completed 2 researcher-developed questions and the Sexual Health Care Scale-Attitude tool that assessed their stereotype beliefs toward discussing sexual health with older adults using the 4 subscales--personal, patient, environmental, and colleague--and the frequency with which they discussed sexual health with their older adult patients. It was hypothesized that non-ageist attitudes would increase the frequency of discussions, and increase the personal factors, such as comfort level, of having such discussions. Multiple regression analysis and the chi-square test were used in data analysis. Frequency of sexual health discussions with older adult patients was dependent upon the physician type, age and gender, and how well the physician believed he or she had been educated to discuss sexual health with older adults. Comparatively, the geriatric physicians had more frequent discussions of sexual health with older adults than the family practitioners. The implications for social change include identifying the need for more specialized physician training in discussing sexual health with older adults to improve overall physical and emotional well-being of older adults and the study's recommendations for future research.