Survey of sex toy use and views in the over 50s

Participant Information Sheet (version 3: 29-10-2021) (get a copy)

Survey of sex toy acceptability, accessibility, and use in the over 50s

1. What is the study about?

You are invited to take part in a study on sex toys and the over 50s. The study will help us to understand people’s views on sex toys, including their acceptability, accessibility, and use. This is an important but under-researched topic. The study is being carried out by Dr Sharron Hinchliff at the University of Sheffield, in partnership with Hot Octopuss: a company that creates accessible sexual aids for customers who experience difficulties obtaining sexual pleasure due limited function as a result of older age and/or disability.

2. Do I have to participate?

Taking part is voluntary. If you want to participate we ask that you read the information below carefully and decide if you want to participate. If you decide to participate, please note that that this will not create a legally binding agreement, nor is it intended to create an employment relationship between you and the University of Sheffield.

3. Who is being asked to participate?

You have been asked to participate because:

• You have expressed interest in participating by clicking on the survey link

• You are currently residing in the UK or US

• You are aged 50 years or older

We aim to recruit 200 participants to this study alone.

4. What will I be asked to do?

If you want to take part, we will ask you to complete a survey with multiple choice and open text response options. It will take 15 minutes of your time to complete the survey. After that, there is no further involvement. Please note that you don’t have to answer every question. If there is a question you’d prefer not to answer, skip it and move onto the next.

5. What are the benefits?

The benefit to taking part is that the study provides an opportunity for you to share your views and help us to build a picture of this important yet under-researched topic. The expected benefits to society in general are to gain insight into the ways that we can support people aged 50 and older with their sexual wellbeing needs, as well as tackle the taboo around the sex lives of people aged 50 and older.

6. What are the risks?

Because the study explores a private topic, some participants might find it embarrassing. There are risks with all research: risks we know about, risks we do not know about, and risks we do not expect. If you experience any concerns while completing this survey, please see the list of services provided at the end of this information sheet to access support.

7. Is the survey anonymous?

The survey is anonymous, and you won’t be asked to provide your name or any contact details. We will not be able to link you to the responses you give. Any potentially identifiable details (for example in the open text responses) will be deleted from the database, reports, and publications. 

8. What will happen to information about me?

If you decide to take part, the data we collect through the survey will not reveal who you are. Any results published will therefore not identify any of the participants. The data information you provide will be used only for this study and its outputs (e.g. research report, summary of findings on the project websites, and journal article).

We will keep the survey responses for 5 years after the project is completed, after which we will destroy all of your data. All the data are anonymous, and will be stored securely on the University of Sheffield drive.

9. What is the legal basis for processing my data?

According to data protection legislation, we are required to inform you that the legal basis we are applying in order to process your personal data is that ‘processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest’ (Article 6(1)(e)). Further information can be found in the University’s Privacy Notice.

As we will be collecting some data that is defined in the legislation as more sensitive (information about sexuality), we also need to let you know that we are applying the following condition in law: that the use of your data is necessary ‘for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific research purposes or statistical purposes’ (9(2)(j)).

10. Will I hear about the results of the study?

A summary of the results will be published on our own websites, which are,, and, along with links to publications resulting from this study. We will also use the results in other publications (journal articles, blogs). As above, all data is anonymous and you will not be identified in any type of publication from this study.

Participants are welcome to join the mailing lists of any of the research team (see the websites above for details) to be kept up-to-date with our latest research. You will not be identified as a study participant by joining any of these lists.

11. What if I change my mind?

If you no longer want to complete the questionnaire, just close the web browser. If you change your mind after clicking on the ‘Submit’ button, we are unable to withdraw your responses because we cannot link who you are with your questionnaire responses.

12. Who is organising and funding the study?

The research is being carried out by Dr Sharron Hinchliff (University of Sheffield), with Joan Price and Pete Melhuish from Hot Octopuss. The study is unfunded, but Hot Octopuss have supported some costs (e.g. targeted advertising for recruitment). The study will run until Autumn 2021.

The research has been granted ethics approval by the Division of Nursing and Midwifery Human Research Ethics Committee (reference number 037458).

13. Who can I contact for questions or want more information?

If you would like to speak to us, please use the contact details below:

Dr Sharron HinchliffChief

14. What if I have a complaint?

If you have a complaint about any part of this study, contact one of the following:

Dr Sharron HinchliffChief
Professor Tracey MooreHead of

If you decide to take part, please keep a copy of this information sheet.

Thank you for your time.

Appended: sources of information and support

If this research has brought-up upsetting memories or emotions, see the following organisations for support. You can also contact your primary care physician or nurse.


College of Sexual and Relationship Therapy (COSRT) factsheets and useful links

Rape Crisis

Support Line

MIND, including their support pages


Mental Health Support

Rape Crisis Centre

Planned Parenthood (includes resources on sexual health)

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)

Very Well Mind (includes relationship therapy)

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