Low Sexual Desire Most Common Distressing Female Sexual Problem

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Results from PRESIDE (Prevalence of Female Sexual Problems Associated with Distress and Determinants of Treatment Seeking), the largest survey assessing the prevalence of female sexual problems, show that low sexual desire is the most commonly reported sexual problem in women age 18 or older.

In this new national survey of more than 31,000 women in the United States, published today in Obstetrics & Gynecology (the Green Journal), nearly one in 10 women reported low desire with sexually-related personal distress, a problem that can be a primary medical condition known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) or secondary to other chronic medical conditions (e.g., depression, thyroid conditions) or medication use. Participants in this survey were not clinically evaluated by a healthcare professional to determine the underlying causes of the reported sexual problems.

HSDD remains largely under-diagnosed in the United States. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, defines HSDD as the persistent lack (or absence) of sexual fantasies or desire for any form of sexual activity marked by distress or interpersonal difficulty and not better accounted for by another disorder (except another sexual dysfunction), direct physiological effects of a substance (including medications) or a general medical condition.

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"Physicians who diagnose and treat women with sexual problems should also make sure to evaluate the patient's level of distress associated with her problem," said Jan L. Shifren, M.D., lead author of the study and director, Menopause Program, Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology Service at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. "As distressing sexual problems were identified in approximately one in eight women, healthcare providers need to ask their patients about sexual concerns, and whether they are causing unhappiness, frustration or other distressing feelings that may be impacting their quality of life."

PRESIDE Results

In the PRESIDE survey, 44.2 percent of women reported experiencing any sexual problem. Low desire was most common, reported in 38.7 percent of all respondents; low arousal (26.1%) and orgasm difficulty (20.5%) were less frequent. Of all the women surveyed, 22.8 percent said they had sexually-related personal distress.

One in eight women (12%) said they had either low desire, low arousal or orgasm difficulty plus personal distress, meaning that, for example, the sexual issue caused the woman to feel frustrated, stressed, angry, embarrassed or unhappy. Low desire was the most common distressing sexual problem, affecting 10 percent of respondents, followed by arousal plus distress (5.4%) and orgasm difficulty plus distress (4.7%). Younger women (ages 18-44; 10.8%) and middle-aged women (45-64; 14.8%) were more likely to suffer a distressing sexual problem than older women (65+; 8.9%). In addition, these women tended to have poor self-assessed health and a low level of education as well as other health issues such as depression, anxiety, thyroid conditions and urinary incontinence.

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