Lifetime Depression History and Sexual Function in Women at Midlife

Abstract

We examined the association between lifetime depression history and sexual function in a community-based sample of midlife women. Specifically, 914 women aged 42-52 who were participants in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation completed a self-report assessment of their sexual behaviors, sexual desire, sexual arousal, and sexual satisfaction over the past 6 months. On the basis of the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV, participants were categorized into 1 of 3 lifetime major depressive disorder (MDD) history groups: no MDD history, single episode MDD, and recurrent MDD. In line with previous reports, women with a history of recurrent MDD reported experiencing less frequent sexual arousal, less physical pleasure, and less emotional satisfaction within their current sexual relationships. Although the groups did not differ in their reported frequency of sexual desire or partnered sexual behaviors, lifetime depression history was associated with increased rates of self-stimulation (masturbation). Associations between lifetime depression history and lower levels of physical pleasure within partnered sexual relationships and higher rates of masturbation remained significant following control for current depressive symptoms, study site, marital status, psychotropic medication use, and lifetime history of anxiety or substance abuse/dependence disorder. Future research is needed to characterize the temporal and etiologic relationships among lifetime depressive disorder, current mood state, and sexual function in women across the lifespan.

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Cyranowski, J.M., Bromberger, J., Youk, A. et al. Lifetime Depression History and Sexual Function in Women at Midlife. Arch Sex Behav 33, 539–548 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:ASEB.0000044738.84813.3b

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  • depression
  • women
  • sexual behavior
  • sexual satisfaction
  • Study of Women's Health Across the Nation