Sexual Satisfaction and the Importance of Sexual Health to Quality of Life Throughout the Life Course of U.S. Adults

Kathryn E. Flynn*, Li Lin, Deborah Watkins Bruner, Jill M. Cyranowski, Elizabeth A. Hahn, Diana D. Jeffery, Jennifer Barsky Reese, Bryce B. Reeve, Rebecca A. Shelby, Kevin P. Weinfurt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

270 Scopus citations


Introduction Discussions about sexual health are uncommon in clinical encounters, despite the sexual dysfunction associated with many common health conditions. Understanding of the importance of sexual health and sexual satisfaction in U.S. adults is limited. Aim To provide epidemiologic data on the importance of sexual health for quality of life and people's satisfaction with their sex lives and to examine how each is associated with demographic and health factors. Methods Data are from a cross-sectional self-report questionnaire from a sample of 3,515 English-speaking U.S. adults recruited from an online panel that uses address-based probability sampling. Main Outcome Measures We report ratings of importance of sexual health to quality of life (single item with five-point response) and the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Satisfaction With Sex Life score (five items, each with five-point responses, scores centered on the U.S. mean). Results High importance of sexual health to quality of life was reported by 62.2% of men (95% CI = 59.4–65.0) and 42.8% of women (95% CI = 39.6–46.1, P < .001). Importance of sexual health varied by sex, age, sexual activity status, and general self-rated health. For the 55% of men and 45% of women who reported sexual activity in the previous 30 days, satisfaction with sex life differed by sex, age, race-ethnicity (among men only), and health. Men and women in excellent health had significantly higher satisfaction than participants in fair or poor health. Women with hypertension reported significantly lower satisfaction (especially younger women), as did men with depression or anxiety (especially younger men). Conclusion In this large study of U.S. adults’ ratings of the importance of sexual health and satisfaction with sex life, sexual health was a highly important aspect of quality of life for many participants, including participants in poor health. Moreover, participants in poorer health reported lower sexual satisfaction. Accordingly, sexual health should be a routine part of clinicians’ assessments of their patients. Health care systems that state a commitment to improving patients’ overall health must have resources in place to address sexual concerns. These resources should be available for all patients across the lifespan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1642-1650
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Self-Report
  • Sexual Behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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