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Researchers Determine Accuracy of Sex Recall for People with Chronic Illnesses

Update Date: Jun 27, 2013 03:27 PM EDT

When people suffer from chronic illnesses, their daily schedules and routines get interrupted with medications and treatments. Not only does taking medications place a strain on the mind, researchers have known that these types of treatments affect one's sexual life as well. Since missing out on sex could lead to a lower quality of life, researchers from Duke Medicine decided to study the effects of these types of treatments on one's sex life and one's ability to remember it. By studying the accuracy of people's recall of their own sexual function, future studies can determine how chronic illnesses affect sex health.

"This study arose from a need to understand how best to measure the effects of disease on people's sexual health," Kevin P. Weinfurt, Ph.D., the study's author, said. Weinfurt is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences from Duke Medicine and is a member of the Duke Clinical Research Institute. "We know these effects can make patients' lives difficult and can disrupt their relationships."

The goal of the study was to observe how accurate patients with chronic illnesses were when it came to recalling sexual events. The researchers measured 30-day recall in order to help develop ways to measure sexual function and satisfaction for the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed PROMIS.

The researchers gathered 101 men and 101 women who were given online surveys that asked them about their sexual health, which ranged from interest in sex to discomfort for 30 days. On top of this daily questionnaire, the participants were also given a single survey on day 30 to recall sexual function for the past month. Over half of the sample set was being treated for chronic illnesses, such as cancer, depression or arthritis. The remaining group of participants acted as the control group.

The researchers found that participants were pretty accurate when it came down to recalling sexual functions and satisfaction within a 30-day time span. Despite the accuracy, the researchers also found that the accuracy was dependent on the individual's sex and mood. For example, men and women tended to overestimate their interest in sex in the 30-month recall questionnaire as opposed to the daily surveys. They also found that when people were in a more positive mood, sexual function appeared to be better.

"Researchers should be aware that mood can affect the accuracy of people's reports of sexual function. To help interpret clinical studies of sexual health, researchers must consider measuring mood alongside the sexual outcomes," Weinfurt warned. "Over the years, our interviews with patients have helped us to understand the incredible burden of chronic diseases on sexual functioning and intimate relationships."

The researchers hope that their findings could provide a better system in measuring how chronic illnesses affect sexual health and overall life quality. The study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

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