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J Sex Med. 2008 Oct;5(10):2291-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.00936.x. Epub 2008 Jul 14.

Sexual function, dysfunction, and sexual distress in a prospective, population-based sample of mid-aged, Australian-born women.

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Office for Gender and Health, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



Previous, population-based studies investigating the risk factors for sexual distress have not drawn on longitudinal data.


Determine the prevalence of sexual distress and dysfunction, explore factors associated with/predictive of sexual distress, and describe changes in sexual function over a decade in a population-based sample of mid-aged women.


Eleven-year prospective study of Australian-born women, aged 45-55 years, and menstruating at baseline. Short Personal Experiences Questionnaire (SPEQ) was completed in years 1 to 8 and 11 of follow-up. Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS) was completed in the 11th year of follow-up.


Validated outcome measures were the SPEQ (total sex score <or=7 indicates low sexual function) and FSDS (score >or=15 indicates sexual distress).


Two hundred fifty-seven women were interviewed in the 11th year of follow-up. All domains of sexual function declined significantly in the decade studied. Women using hormone therapy in year 11 had significantly greater responsivity and higher frequency of sexual activities than nonusers. Two hundred four women completed both the FSDS and SPEQ questionnaires. One hundred sixty-six (81%) women had an SPEQ score <or=7 of whom 34 (17% of the total sample) had an FSDS score >or=15, and were classified as having female sexual dysfunction. The multiple logistic regression analysis found that female sexual distress was concurrently associated with higher depression scores (odds ratio [OR] 1.31, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.10, 1.56) and more negative feelings for partner (OR 0.49, 95% CI 0.32, 0.76) and predicted by prior negative feelings for partner (OR 0.31, 95% CI 0.14, 0.70), and a greater decline in total sex score (OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.59, 0.99).


By the end of the sixth decade, women have low levels of sexual function. Hormone therapy may help these women maintain sexual function. A minority of these mostly postmenopausal women are significantly distressed about low sexual function. Sexual distress is associated with depression and relationship factors.

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