Social and sexual needs of men with long-term conditions

Men with long-term conditions demand better social care

Norah Fry Research Centre at the School for Policy Studies NIHR School for Social Care Research at the University of Bristol have completed a study into the social and sexual needs of men with disabilities. The project was undertaken with the support and involvement of the DFSG.

The social care sector needs to focus on gender-specific social and sexual needs when looking after men with debilitating long-term health conditions, a new study has found.

 Researchers at the University of Bristol looked at the views of 20 men, aged from 21 to 33, who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a life-limiting neuromuscular disease which gradually causes the muscles to weaken.

 The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Social Care Research (SSCR), is being presented at the Disability Studies Conference in Lancaster on 9 September and reveals that men sometimes found that social care took no account of their male gender and they wanted more support with social activities and sexual relationships.

 One participant said: “I think the actual impact of social care can be incredibly emasculating, if it is set up in such a way that it takes away your independence and your autonomy. It's not even gender neutral, because gender's not even in there.” 

 Aspects of life that the men found challenging and would welcome more support with included:

  • difficulties in attracting sexual/intimate partners;
  • barriers to obtaining paid work;
  • questions about moving out of the family home relating to care, support and loneliness;
  • restrictions on a social life linked to shortage or inflexibility of support arrangements;
  • concerns about physical appearance and muscularity.

Social care staff should give cues to show that such topics are not off-limits, prompting men to feel able to discuss issues of concern.

Professor David Abbott, from the Norah Fry Research Centre at the University of Bristol, said: “This group of men is just one example of people living with long-term conditions who need good quality social care. Having support to dress and wash obviously matters but what about life enhancing activities - sex, relationships, fun, risk – why are these off limits?

Imagine if being the man you wanted to be meant you needed flexible and imaginative social care support. Imagine if you didn’t have this.

“The men we spoke to wanted to be treated like men, despite their increasing reliance on physical support. A headline message for the social care sector is to think about gender and the whole range of social and sexual needs men living with long-term conditions may have.”

A short film based on the research findings is available to view online:


The Study press release:

The research findings' published paper:

The film made by the study:

With Subtitles:
Without Subtitles:
David Abbott
Professor (Social Policy), Norah Fry Research Centre
Research Director, School for Policy Studies
Associate Director, NIHR School for Social Care Research
University of Bristol
8 Priory Road
Direct Line: 0117 331 0972