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Sexual Health

Sexual health is the integration of the somatic, emotional, intellectual, and social aspects of sexual being, in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality, communication, and love.

The document went on to cite Mace, Bannerman, and Burton (1974) who described sexual health as containing three basic elements: (a) capacity to enjoy and control sexual and reproductive behavior in accordance with a social and personal ethic; (b) freedom from fear, shame, guilt, false beliefs, and other psychological factors inhibiting sexual response and impairing sexual relationship; and (c) freedom from organic disorders, diseases, and deficiencies that interfere with sexual and reproductive function. In spite of difficulties at arriving at this definition, this definition has endured and has been used throughout this last quarter century.

Sexuality is an integral part of the personality of everyone: man, womanand child. It is a basic need and an aspect of being human that cannot beseparated from other aspects of human life. Sexuality is not synonymouswith sexual intercourse, it is not about whether we have orgasms or not, and it is not the sum total of our erotic lives These may be part of oursexuality, but equally they may not. Sexuality is so much more: it is in the energy that motivates us to find love, contact, feel warmth, and intimacy it is expressed in the way we feel, move, touch and are touched; it is about being sensual as well as sexual Sexuality influences thoughts, feelings, actions and interactions and thereby our mental and physical health.

Teenage sexual activity has significant consequences: sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pregnancy, social and economic disruption, and legal implications. Of the 15 million new cases of STDs that occur each year in the United States, 10 million occur in people aged 15 to 24. (1) Each year, over 400,000 infants are born to teenagers; more than 146,000 are born to those 17 years of age or younger. (2) In 2000, 18% of reported abortions in the United States were performed on teenagers.

The majority of studies on sex and aging confirm that most individuals in later life retain sexual interest and ability. Results of earlier studies indicate that many men and women remain sexually active well into their 70s.

Although sexual activity is potentially life-long, often medications, illnesses, partner availability, and relationship problems, more than age-related changes in sexual responsiveness, can be responsible for discontinuation of sexual activity. Clinicians can help older patients adapt to these changes and maintain maximal sexual health. With intact health, aging patients' sexual functioning can be preserved until the end of life.

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