Home News Findings from major investigation into sexual health in adults over 45 reveal ways to tackle stigma

Findings from major investigation into sexual health in adults over 45 reveal ways to tackle stigma

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  • SHIFT project launched new model of Sexual Health and Wellbeing to target rising STIs in older adults
  • Series of short films developed to counter difficulties with engaging the health workforce in supporting this neglected population with their sexual health
  • The project is first of its kind to address sexual health and wellbeing in middle and older adults in UK and Europe

Results from a major European project on the sexual health needs and wellbeing of over-45s have been revealed by Scientists at the University of Chichester.

The large-scale project known as SHIFT (Sexual Health in over Forty Fives) was funded with €4 million by the EU Interreg 2Seas programme to improve the sexual health and wellbeing of mid-life and older adults across the continent. Project delivery took place between March 2019 – October 2022 and the evaluation, carried out by the University of Chichester (UK), involved 2,690 individuals, 219 healthcare and wider workforce professionals as well as third-party analytics data on over 23,000 individuals from the United Kingdom, Belgium and The Netherlands.

The final evaluation of the project was carried out by the University of Chichester and celebrated the success of a new model to support the sexual health and wellbeing of over 45s. Project evaluation showed improvements in knowledge and awareness of good sexual health, access to services, and reductions of stigma towards sex and sexual needs in later life amongst midlife and older adults.

Previous research suggested that STI rates remain high in over 45s. The SHIFT evaluation reported difficulties in engaging healthcare staff with the issue, highlighting how sexual healthcare neglects older generations. Short public health films have been developed by the project team to target stigma by healthcare professionals and increase engagement in this issue, alongside other resources such as a specialist SHIFT sexual health website which have been made available to health professionals and the general public.

Psychologist Dr Ian Tyndall from the University of Chichester, a lead partner on the project, said “It is clearly evident that many healthcare professionals have a lack of knowledge and awareness of the sexual health needs and issues specific to mid-life and older adults. Our SHIFT project has addressed this problem head on by developing specialised sexual health in over-45s training programmes for healthcare professionals and wider workforce to raise knowledge and build skills, producing six films to reduce stigma and raise awareness of key issues such as new relationships in older adulthood, STIs, safe sex, HIV, menopause in relationships and workplace, and a one-stop SHIFT website containing information directly relevant for sexual health and wellbeing for this neglected population.”

For more about the SHIFT project go to www.shift-sexual-health.eu or https://www.chi.ac.uk/research/research-areas/sport-research/health-and-wellbeing/shift/

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