Predictors of safer sex behaviors of midlife and older women

Robin J Jacobs, Florida International University


Heterosexual transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in midlife and older women is increasing, yet little is known about the safer sex practices of these women. Identification of HIV risk and protective factors necessitates understanding of the influences of individual, interpersonal, and socio-environmental factors on the sexual behaviors of this understudied, at-risk population. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of self esteem, sensation seeking, self silencing, sexual assertiveness, and HIV-stigma on the safer sex behaviors of women aged 50 and older. This study was guided by the ecological perspective which emphasizes the multilevel factors affecting health behaviors within individual, interpersonal, and socio-environmental contexts. A community-based, ethnically diverse sample of 572 women aged 50 to 93 (M = 63.6 years, SD = 10.5) completed a 128-item anonymous questionnaire. This study used a cross-sectional, correlational research design. The data were analyzed using Pearson correlation coefficients and multiple regression analysis. Results from the regression analysis with the predictors (i.e., ethnicity, education, self esteem, sensation seeking, self silencing, sexual assertiveness, and HIV stigma) indicated the model significantly predicted safer sex behaviors (p < .001). Self silencing (β = -.115, p < .05) was a significant predictor. The lower the self silencing scores, the higher the safer sex behavior scores. Further exploration of the data revealed that the greater the age of the woman, the more likely she is to engage in safer sex behaviors (β = .173, p < .001). While the data showed this model was statistically significant, its practical significance may be limited due to the low proportion of variance explained by age and self silencing. HIV/AIDS prevention interventions that are socially anchored, age-appropriate, and gender-specific are discussed and recommendations for socially meaningful strategies to reduce the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS in midlife and older women are presented.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Social work|Public health

Recommended Citation

Jacobs, Robin J, "Predictors of safer sex behaviors of midlife and older women" (2006). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3249707.