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Psychosocial factors influencing risk-taking in middle age for STIs
  1. Jenny Dalrymple1,
  2. Joanne Booth2,
  3. Paul Flowers2,
  4. Karen Lorimer2
  1. 1School of Health and Life Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2School of Health and Life Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jenny Dalrymple, School of Health and Life Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, George Moore Building, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 OBA, UK; Jenny.Dalrymple{at}


Objectives To increase the knowledge of the psychosocial factors influencing sexual risk-taking for STIs among adults in late middle age.

Methods Individual interviews were conducted either face to face or by telephone with 31 heterosexual men and women aged between 45 and 65. They were recruited from NHS sexual health services (n=16) and council run culture and leisure facilities (n=15) in a large Scottish city. A total of 18 women and 13 men were interviewed. All interviews were transcribed in full and thematically analysed.

Results Analysis detailed important psychosocial and sociocultural factors; the prioritisation of intimacy above and beyond concerns about risks for STI in sexual partnerships; the importance of unwanted pregnancy in shaping risk perceptions throughout the life course; vulnerability associated with periods of relationship transition (eg, bereavement, divorce or separation); social norms and cultural expectations relating to age-appropriate sexual and health-seeking behaviours.

Conclusions This is the first qualitative study to examine the factors associated with sexual risk-taking among heterosexual adults in late middle age in the UK. Many factors associated with sexual risk-taking are similar to those reported within other populations. However, we also detail population-specific factors, which should be considered in terms of the development of interventions for ‘at risk’ older adults, or the tailoring of wider behaviour change interventions to this specific age group.


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  • Handling editor Jackie A Cassell

  • Twitter Follow Joanne Booth @Booth_jo, Paul Flowers @PaulFlowers1 and Karen Lorimer @klo_12

  • Contributors JD designed the study, undertook recruitment, conducted all interviews, undertook analysis and drafted the manuscript. KL helped with study design, planning recruitment and audited the analysis. JB helped with recruitment planning and audit of the analysis. PF audited the analysis. All authors edited and approved the final manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Glasgow Caledonian University School of Health and Life Sciences Ethics Committee (B11/81), West of Scotland Research Ethics Committee 4 (12/WS/0247).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.