Correlates of Sexually Related Personal Distress in Women with Low Sexual Desire

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Sexual distress is an important component of diagnostic criteria for sexual dysfunctions, but little is known about the factors associated with sexual distress in women with low sexual desire.


To investigate the correlates of sexual distress in women with self-reported low sexual desire.


The Prevalence of Female Sexual Problems Associated with Distress and Determinants of Treatment Seeking study was a cross-sectional, nationally representative, mailed survey of U.S. adult women. There were 31,581 respondents (response rate 63.2%) to the 42-item questionnaire that measured sexual function, sexual distress, demographic, and health-related factors. Multivariable logistic regression was used to explore the correlates of distress.

Main Outcome Measures.

Low sexual desire was defined as a response of “never” or “rarely” to the question, “How often do you desire to engage in sexual activity?” Sexual distress was measured with the Female Sexual Distress Scale (range 0-48), with a score of 15 or higher indicating presence of distress.


Of 10,429 women with low desire, 2,868 (27.5%) had sexual distress (mean age 48.6 years, 81% with a current partner). Women without distress were 10 years older on average, and 44% had a current partner. Having a partner was strongly related to distress (odds ratio 4.6, 95% confidence interval 4.1-5.2). Other correlates were age, race, current depression, anxiety, lower social functioning, hormonal medication use, urinary incontinence, and concurrent sexual problems (arousal or orgasm). Dissatisfaction with sex life was more common in women with low desire and distress (65%) than in those without distress (20%).


Age has a curvilinear relationship with distress, and the strongest correlate of sexual distress was having a current partner. Sexual distress and dissatisfaction with sex life are strongly correlated. Distress is higher in women with low sexual desire in a partner relationship; further research on this factor is needed. Rosen RC, Shifren JL, Monz BU, Odom DM, Russo PA, and Johannes CB. Correlates of sexually related personal distress in women with low sexual desire. J Sex Med 2009;6:1549-1560.

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