Health Effects on Sex Life Interview with:
Dr Nigel Field MBPhD Research Department of Infection and Population Health University College London, London, UDr Nigel Field MBPhD
Research Department of Infection and Population Health
University College London, London, UK What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Field: This study, published in The Lancet on Tuesday 26 November, reports data from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal), interviewing over 15,000 participants aged 16-74 years, to systematically assess the association between people’s health and their sexual lifestyles in Britain. The key findings from the study are that close to one in six (17%) of men and women feel that their health had affected their sex life in the past year. This rises to three fifths (60%) among men and women who say that they are in bad health. However, only a quarter of men (24%) and under a fifth of women (18%) who say that ill-health affects their sex life had sought help from a health profession, usually a family doctor.
The also study shows that the proportion of people who had recently had sex (within the past four weeks) declined with age, and was lower among those who reported being in bad health, compared to those who reported being in very good health. The association remained after adjustment to account for age and whether participants were in a relationship. We also found that lower levels of satisfaction were associated with poorer health, with the association again remaining after adjustment for age and relationship status.

Even though the overall results show a clear association between ill-health and individual’s sex lives, we note that many people in bad health reported being sexually active and/or satisfied. About one third of participants reported recent sexual activity and just under half of the same group were satisfied with their sex lives. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Field: For the first time, we asked people whether they feel that their health affects their sex lives, and our findings indicate that many patients in chronic ill-health are well aware of an effect on their sex lives. Yet few of these people had sought help from health professionals about sexual problems. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Field: Our study suggests that sexual lifestyles are strongly linked to overall health and wellbeing. However, most people reporting a health condition affecting their sex life had not sought clinical advice. There may be barriers on both sides, with patients sometimes unwilling to discuss problems, and health professionals sometimes lacking sufficient awareness and training about advising and communication with patients about sexual problems. For clinicians, this study suggests that assessments of sexual health should form part of a holistic approach to care of patients at all ages with chronic ill health. For patients, while the study shows that many people in bad health report being sexually active and/or satisfied with their sex life, it also suggests that concerns about the effect of people’s health on their sex lives are common. Patients might benefit from discussing these concerns with their doctor.

Associations between health and sexual lifestyles in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3)
Dr Nigel Field MBPhD,Catherine H Mercer PhD,Pam Sonnenberg PhD,Clare Tanton PhD,Soazig Clifton BSc,Kirstin R Mitchell PhD,Bob Erens MA,Wendy Macdowall MSc,Prof Frederick Wu FRCP,Jessica Datta MSc,Kyle G Jones MSc,Amy Stevens BSc,Philip Prah MSc,Andrew J Copas PhD,Andrew Phelps BA,Prof Kaye Wellings FRCOG,Prof Anne M Johnson MD
The Lancet – 30 November 2013 ( Vol. 382, Issue 9907, Pages 1830-1844 )
DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62222-9

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