Sexual Function on the Other Side of the Pond

Summary and Comment |
January 14, 2014

Sexual Function on the Other Side of the Pond

  1. Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP

A British population survey showed low sexual function was common in all age groups; correlates included depression, poor health, and postmenopausal status.

  1. Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP

Healthy sexuality contributes to overall quality of life. Now, the third British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) provides a picture of sexual health, attitudes, and practices in England, Scotland, and Wales. A probability sample of 6777 women and 4913 men (age range, 16–74 years) with ≥1 sexual partner during the previous year completed the validated, computer-administered survey. Scores were calculated from components such as sexual response (e.g., interest in and enjoyment of sex), relationship elements (e.g., agreement on sexual likes and dislikes), and appraisal of sex life (e.g., satisfaction, avoidance). Low sexual function was defined relative to the rest of the sample (i.e., scoring in the lowest quintile).

The percentage of women with low sexual function changed with age (aged 16–24, 13%; aged 55–64, 27%; aged 65–74, 24%). Low function correlated strongly with current depression, poor general health, and postmenopausal status. Other factors included dissatisfaction with sexual relationship, lack of sexual competence (e.g., not using reliable contraception), and histories of coerced (“nonvolitional”) sex or diagnosis of sexually transmitted infection during the past 5 years. Women's most commonly reported sexual problems included lack of sexual interest (about one quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds and about one third of other age groups), difficulty reaching climax (16%), and vaginal dryness (13%).

In another portion of Natsal-3, 19% of 8869 women reported having experienced nonvolitional sex attempts, about half of which had been completed. In most instances of completed nonvolitional sex, perpetrators were current or former intimate partners (41%), family members or friends (20% overall; 45% in teens aged 13–15 years), or known in some other way (21%). Some (42%) of these women told someone about the act, but only 13% reported it to police (more likely when the perpetrator was a stranger).


The entire body of Natsal-3 data is far more extensive than is summarized here. In sum, the information might not be practice-changing, but it does provide insight into sexual function in a culture not dissimilar to that in the U.S. As an editorialist observes, “positive sexual experience is good for us [and] negative sexual experience is bad for us,” a reminder that our patients' sexual well-being affects their health and vice versa.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP at time of publication Nothing to disclose


Reader Comments (1)

ONYENMECHI AFONNE Other Healthcare Professional, Pharmacology/Pharmacy, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nnewi Campus

Good publication

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