Published January 13, 2015
About 40 percent of women report having sexual problems, but most aren't bothered by them, according to the largest study ever published on a women's sexual health.
The study, led by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and published in the November issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that only 12 percent of women suffering from a low sex drive are actually bothered by the problem.
"Sexual problems are common in women, but problems associated with personal distress, those which are truly bothersome and affect a woman's quality of life, are much less frequent." said study leader, Dr. Jan Shifren, of Massachusetts General's Obstetrics and Gynecology Service, in a news release. "For a sexual concern to be considered a medical problem, it must be associated with distress, so it's important to assess this in both research studies and patient care."
The study surveyed 32,000 women aged 18 to older than 100 from across the U.S. In addition to asking standardized questions about their sexual health, the survey also measured the women’s distress related to their sex lives — including feelings of anger, guilt, frustration, and worry.
Forty-three percent of respondents reported some level of sexual dysfunction — 39 percent reported low levels of desire, 26 percent had problems with arousal and 21 percent had difficulties with orgasm.
But distress related to any of these problems was reported by only 12 percent of study participants. Although the prevalence of sexual problems was highest in women older than 65, that group reported the lowest levels of distress, while distress was reported most frequently in women ages 45-64.
The youngest group, ages 18-44, had lower levels of both problems and distress. Women with depression were more than twice as likely to report distress over any type of sexual problem compared to those not suffering from depression.