Why don't healthcare professionals talk about sex?: a systematic review of recent qualitative studies conducted in the United Kingdom

Dyer, Kerry and das Nair, Roshan (2013) Why don't healthcare professionals talk about sex?: a systematic review of recent qualitative studies conducted in the United Kingdom. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10 (11). pp. 2658-2670. ISSN 1743-6109

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Sexuality is considered to be an important aspect of holistic care, yet research has demonstrated that it is not routinely addressed in healthcare services. A greater understanding of this can be achieved through synthesizing qualitative studies investigating healthcare professionals’ experiences of talking about sex. In doing so, policy makers and healthcare providers may be able to better address the sexual issues of service users.


To gain an in-depth understanding of healthcare professionals’ subjective experience of discussing sexuality with service users by identifying the factors that impede and facilitate such discussions.

Main Outcome Measures

Review of healthcare professionals’ experience of discussing sexuality with service users.


Electronic databases and reference lists of published articles were searched in July 2011. Primary research studies were included in the review if they explored health professionals’ experiences of discussing sexuality with adult service users, used qualitative methods, and were conducted in the United Kingdom over the last 10 years. Each study was reviewed and assessed. A secondary thematic analysis method was used where key themes were extracted and grouped and key concepts were explored.


Nineteen interconnected themes emerged relating to healthcare professionals’ experience of discussing sexuality with service users, including fear about “opening up a can of worms,” lack of time, resources, and training, concern about knowledge and abilities, worry about causing offense, personal discomfort, and a lack of awareness about sexual issues. Some themes were particularly marked relating to the sexuality of the opposite-gender, black and ethnic minority groups, older and non-heterosexual service users, and those with intellectual disabilities.


The majority of healthcare professionals do not proactively discuss sexuality issues with service users, and this warrants further attention. An understanding of the perceived barriers and facilitators indicates that interventions to improve the extent to which sexuality issues are addressed need to take organizational, structural, and personal factors into consideration.

Item Type: Article
RIS ID: https://nottingham-repository.worktribe.com/output/719762
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Dyer, K. & dasNair, R. (2013) Why don't health professionals talk about sex? Journal of Sexual Medicine. Vol. 13, issue 11, p. 2658-2670, which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02856.x This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Keywords: Sexuality, Staff, Qualitative research, Literature review, Healthcare system
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Social Sciences > Institute of Work, Health and Organization
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02856.x
Depositing User: Dziunka, Patricia
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2016 08:29
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 16:40
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/34033

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