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More than half of adults’ sex lives impacted by health problems in the East of England

Health / Sun 11th Feb 2024 at 10:38am

MORE than one in two (52%) people aged 18 and over in the East of England say their sex life has at some point been affected by illness, injury, a health condition or disability. And just under half (46%) say health problems have affected their relationship. That’s according to a new survey by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT). In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, the findings support expert advice on improving your sex life, intimacy and relationship from occupational therapists.

According to the poll, more than one in eight (13%) adults in the East of England say their or their partner’s lack of understanding of the other person’s health condition has caused problems in their relationship. Around one in eight (12%) said the impact of their or their partner’s health condition has caused relationship problems.

With around half (48%) of adults in the UK affected by long-standing health problem[1], there is a clear need for more support for people with health challenges to be able to maintain healthy connections and stable relationships. For many, improving communication could help.

The poll found that one in three (30%) people in the East of England would break up with someone if they thought the sex was bad. The top three causes of problems in a relationship in the East of England are: stress (20%), poor communication (19%), and financial pressures (17%).

Lauren Walker, Professional Advisor at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, says:

‘There’s more to a relationship than sex, and – as our survey shows – communication is absolutely key. While, for many of us, sex is an important part of a relationship, there are many other components to a stable and healthy relationship.

‘It’s surprising to see just how many adults’ relationships and sex lives have been affected by long-term illness, injury, health condition or disability in the East of England. And it’s a concern that so many of these people feel their relationship is affected by a lack of understanding or simply the impact of a health problem. This is where occupational therapists come in. We work with people to address both physical and psychological challenges around sex and intimacy. We help them to overcome barriers that they’re facing in their romantic and sexual relationships.

‘Ahead of Valentine’s Day, the best place to start is by having a conversation with your partner about your relationship and your sex life. It can be difficult and uncomfortable, so make sure you’re in a relaxed environment. If you need to, ask a friend if you can role play the conversation beforehand, or practice in a mirror, so you have an idea of what you want to say.’

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages who have a wide range of conditions, helping them overcome challenges completing everyday occupations, also known tasks or activities. This can include intimacy and sex, within the context of long-term health conditions, illness, injury or disability. They work with the person as an individual, look at their environment, and may suggest equipment, lifestyle changes, stress management or communication techniques and resources to help someone improve their relationship, intimacy and sex life.

RCOT has released expert advice from occupational therapists for improving your sex life, intimacy and relationship as part of its ongoing Lift Up Your Everyday campaign. It provides examples of the type of advice an occupational therapist would give as part of a personal, realistic and practical plan for an individual. The advice is available at rcot.co.uk/relationships

To find out more about what an occupational therapist does, or to find a registered occupational therapist, visit rcot.co.uk

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