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Tuesday, 23 February, 1999, 00:12 GMT
The difference between men and women
Viagra may have opened up debate on sexual problems
Relationship difficulties play a major role in women's sexual problems but not in men's, according to a survey.

Two-fifths of women who responded to a survey of GP patients said they suffered sexual problems, compared with a third of men.

Researchers at Keele University got responses from around 2,000 patients on the registers of GP surgeries across the country.

Women were most likely to report problems with vaginal dryness and infrequent orgasm, while men's main problems were difficulties getting or retaining an erection and premature ejaculation.

Older men were twice as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction than young men, while younger men had more problems with premature ejaculation.

Older women suffered from vaginal dryness more, but the difference between the problems suffered by old and young women was less marked than for men.

Psychological problems

The major difference between men and women was that women with sexual problems were much more likely to say they had relationship or psychological problems.

Peter Croft, professor of primary care epidemiology at Keele University, said: "It is difficult to disentangle cause and effect. We do not know in women whether some of the relationship problems led to the dissatisfaction with sex or the other way round."

He added that it was possible male sexual problems were more "mechanical" with erectile dysfunction being linked to things like high blood pressure and prostate operations.

However, many men with premature ejaculation admitted they were anxious.

"This does seem to tell us something about different approaches to or perceptions of sex and sexuality between men and women," he said.

He added that the study suggested women's sexual problems may be more complex than men's.

"They tend not to be perceived as a simple physical problem for which there is a treatment," he said, although some symptoms could be treated with drugs like hormone replacement therapy.

Viagra

Professor Croft said discussions about the impotence drug Viagra may have helped fuel a more open debate about sexual problems and prompt patients to ask for treatment.

"It is remarkable how common the problems are, yet many people have not sought or received help," he said.

"If people seek treatment it could not only help them, but could have the spin-off effect of improving their relationship and their partners' psychological status."

But he cautioned that it was still not clear what the long-term effects of drugs like Viagra might be.

The research is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

See also:

11 Dec 98 | Health
Viagra: a great British invention
16 Dec 98 | Health
The magic of sexual attraction
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