The epidemiology of sexual dysfunctions

Leonard R. Derogatis, Arthur L. Burnett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


Introduction. Epidemiology can be defined as the population study of the occurrence of health and disease. The knowledge of the rates of occurrence of sexual dysfunctions and the primary risk factors for these conditions is very important to assist in assessing the risk and planning treatment and prevention programs in sexual medicine. Aim. Review modern studies of the prevalence and incidence of sexual dysfunction in an effort to establish a consensus concerning the frequency of occurrence of these conditions, and review the strengths and liabilities of design methodology in the field. Main Outcome Measure. Review of peer-reviewed literature. Results. The findings suggest that sexual dysfunctions are highly prevalent in our society worldwide, and that the occurrence of sexual dysfunctions increases directly with age for both men and women. There is also a strong support for the finding that although the frequency of symptoms increases with age, personal distress about those symptoms appears to diminish as individuals become older. An additional uniform result was that specific medical conditions and health behaviors represent major risk factors for sexual disorders, and that many of these health conditions also have a strong positive relationship with age. Conclusions. Progress has been made concerning both the number andquality of epidemiologic prevalence studies in sexual medicine; however, there is a paucity of studies of the incidence of these conditions. Because reliable incidence data are critical for prevention and treatment planning, the design and execution of the incidence trials should become a high priority for the field. In addition, repeated calls for the development of a new systematic and integrated diagnostic system in sexual medicine were also evident, because of the perception by many that the imprecision of our current diagnostic system represents the "rate-limiting step" for the epidemiology of the field. The review suggests that although much has been accomplished in the past 15-20 years, much remains to be done.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-300
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Nosology
  • Prevalence
  • Sexual dysfunctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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