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The impact of study design on prevalence estimates of Female Sexual Dysfunction

The impact of study design on prevalence estimates of Female Sexual Dysfunction

Despite increasing research, the true prevalence of Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) remains a contentious issue. Previous research suggests that aspects of study design affect the reported prevalence of FSD. We compare commonly used instruments for assessing FSD.

A random sample of 240 Australian women aged 20-70 participated in this population based, cross-sectional study. A questionnaire mailed to women across Australia included four instruments for assessing FSD. The Sexual Function Questionnaire combined with the Female Sexual Distress Scale (SFQ-FSDS) was employed as a standard, validated instrument. Alternative instruments were the SFQ alone and two modified versions of a set of questions originally developed by Laumann et al.

When assessed by the SFQ-FSDS, prevalence estimates (and 95% confidence intervals) of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, Female Sexual Arousal Disorder (genital subtype), Female Orgasmic Disorder, and Dysparunia were 16%(11-20%), 8%(4-11%), 9%(6-13%), 2%(0.1-3%) respectively. The prevalence estimates of these same disorders obtained using alternative instruments were 32-55%, 17-35%, 17-33% and 3-25% respectively. The sensitivity of alternative instruments varied widely (0 to 1.0). Specificities ranged from 0.51 to 0.99. Positive predictive values ranged from 0 to 0.57. Negative predictive values were all above 0.90. Changing the time span for recalling sexual experiences in an instrument altered the prevalence estimates, sensitivity and specificity. 32% of women with low desire, 31% with low genital arousal, 36% with orgasm difficulty and 57% with sexual pain were sexually distressed.

Over a third of women who were classified as suffering FSD by alternative instruments did not have FSD when assessed by SFQ-FSDS.
Alternative instruments produced substantially higher prevalence estimates of FSD and identified different groups of women. Consequently, the instruments researchers choose to assess FSD may affect both the prevalence estimates and risk factors they report.

Speakers: Richard Hayes
Conference: Demo
Areas of Interest / Categories: Female Sexual Dysfunction

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