What is it about?

Sexual problems are common in the civilian population, with around 43% of women experiencing these difficulties at some point (Laumann et al., 1999; Shifren et al., 2008). Low sexual desire is the most commonly reported sexual problem in civilian women. Less is known about women veterans' experiences with sexual problems. As a group, women veterans experience several risk factors for sexual problems including increased rates of trauma, anxiety, and depression. More research is needed to understand women veterans' experiences and needs in this area. We conducted a retrospective cohort analysis of 790,726 women veterans receiving care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to determine how many women had been diagnosed with low sexual desire or arousal. We found that only 0.19% (n = 1,494) of women veterans in our sample had been diagnosed with problems of low sexual desire or arousal. This finding is much smaller than rates found in civilian women, suggesting that these problems may be underassessed and undertreated within VHA.

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Why is it important?

Sexual problems including low sexual desire and arousal are associated with reductions in quality of life and can negatively affect intimate relationships and other mental health variables (e.g. depression, anxiety). Several studies demonstrate that sexual problems are not often discussed in clinical contexts. In other words, providers don't often ask patients about their sexual problems, and patients aren't bringing it up. There are many reasons why this is happening such as embarrassment and lack of time and education on sexual problems. Since sexual problems are common, these barriers need to be addressed so that more patients can access help, resources, and treatment for their sexual concerns.

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This page is a summary of: Prevalence of sexual desire and arousal difficulties among women veterans: A retrospective cohort design., Psychological Services, December 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/ser0000733.
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