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Sexual dysfunction survey


As medicine and lifestyle become inextricably mixed, dealing with issues concerning sexual dysfunction is more common. The explosion of interest in male erectile problems is just one part of this, so any study which sheds more light on just how common problems are is helpful.


As part of a US National Health and Social Life Survey, questions were asked of men and women aged between 18 and 59 years [1]. There were 1410 men and 1749 women, with exclusions of people living in group quarters (barracks, dormitories, prisons) and people not fluent in English. Seventy-nine percent of people asked took part in the survey.


The answers for six questions given to both men and women are shown in the Table.
Question Percent
Lack interest in sex 32
Unable to achieve orgasm 26
Experience pain during sex 16
Sex not pleasurable 23
Anxious about performance 12
Trouble lubricating 21
Lack interest in sex 15
Unable to achieve orgasm 8
Climax too early 31
Sex not pleasurable 8
Anxious about performance 18
Trouble achieving or maintaining erection 10


For most questions there was little difference in response rates with age, except pain during sex (higher in the youngest age group of women), sex not pleasurable (lowest in the oldest age group of women), and trouble achieving or maintaining an erection (increased with age in men, Figure).

Clearly there was a high overall rate of problems, with 32% of women lacking interest in sex, 26% unable to achieve orgasm and 16% experiencing pain during sex. For men, early climax and anxiety about performance were major problems, but in the age group of 50-59 years 18% had trouble achieving or maintaining an erection.

The study also showed that the experience of sexual dysfunction is highly associated with unsatisfying personal experiences and relationships. There were strong (and probably causal) relationships between low sexual desire or performance with low physical and emotional satisfaction and low general happiness.


When clever chemists, by chance or design, develop safe and effective drugs which help women achieve an orgasm, or which relieve pain during sex, then there will be a stampede to obtain those drugs, just as there has been for effective treatments for male erectile dysfunction. For many people poor sexual life translates into lower general happiness.

Given that most people recognise that life is not a rehearsal, but the real thing, and that sexual problems are common, then you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see this as a major growth area. In the UK, and probably in other countries, some imaginative solutions will be needed to how we deal with lifestyle, health and medical resources.


  1. EO Laumann, A Paik, RC Rosen. Sexual dysfunction in the United States: prevalence and predictors. JAMA 1999 281: 537-544.

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