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Distressing Sexual Problems in United States Women Revisited: Prevalence After Accounting for Depression

Catherine B. Johannes, PhD; Anita H. Clayton, MD; Dawn M. Odom, MS; Raymond C. Rosen, PhD; Patricia A. Russo, PhD; Jan L. Shifren, MD, and Brigitta U. Monz, MD

Published: December 15, 2009

Article Abstract

Objective: With data from the population-based Prevalence of Female Sexual Problems Associated with Distress and Determinants of Treatment Seeking (PRESIDE) study, which has previously estimated the prevalence of sexual problems and sexually related personal distress in United States women, the prevalence of sexual disorders of desire, arousal, and orgasm was re-estimated, taking concurrent depression into consideration.

Method: Current depression was defined in 3 ways as (1) self-reported symptoms alone, (2) antidepressant medication use alone, or (3) symptoms and/or antidepressant use. The unadjusted population prevalence for each distressing sexual problem in the 31,581 respondents was calculated first irrespective of concurrent depression and then in women without concurrent depression, thus determining the size of the population with both conditions present.

Results: The unadjusted population-based prevalence of desire disorder was 10.0% and was reduced to 6.3% for those without concurrent depression, leading to an estimate of 3.7% for those with both conditions present. The same pattern was observed for arousal and orgasm disorders, although overall prevalence estimates were lower.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that about 40% of those with a sexual disorder of desire, arousal, or orgasm have concurrent depression, As this study was cross-sectional, causality versus comorbidity cannot be determined. However, our findings stress the importance of evaluating depression along with sexual problems in routine clinical practice and epidemiology research.

Submitted: May 21, 2009; accepted July 15, 2009.

Corresponding author: Catherine B. Johannes, PhD, RTI Health Solutions, 1440 Main Street, Waltham MA 02451 (

Volume: 70

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