Sexual health is a complex yet often overlooked aspect of overall health. As the entry point to the healthcare system, primary care is an ideal setting for identifying sexual health concerns, and integrated behavioral health providers (BHPs) can assist the primary care team with assessment and treatment. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of sexual dysfunction and examine preferences for discussing sexual health concerns in primary care. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of a random sample of Veteran primary care patients from 3 VA medical centers across Central and Western New York. Of 1500 surveys mailed, 313 were returned (21% response rate). Participants (M age=50.4 years, SD=13.4, range: 25-85) were mostly White (88%), female (60%), and married (76%). They completed a brief measure of sexual functioning (Arizona Sexual Experiences Scale) and items on preferences for discussing sexual health concerns (1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree). Overall, 36% of men and 63% of women screened positive on the ASEX for sexual dysfunction, with low sex drive being the most common issue. Participants indicated that if they were having sexual problems, they preferred that the primary care team ask about it (M=3.68, SD=1.12) rather than wait until they brought it up on their own (M=2.96, SD=1.21), t(304)=6.32, p<.001. Most participants (86%) were willing to meet with a BHP to discuss sexual dysfunction if their primary care team recommended it. The preferred format for help with sexual health concerns was meeting with the PCP (33%), followed by meeting with the BHP (16%). Findings suggest sexual functioning difficulties are common among primary care patients, and patients are receptive to being asked about and discussing sexual health concerns with their primary care team, including BHPs. Patients may benefit from PCPs and BHPs addressing their sexual health concerns in primary care using a biopsychosocial, integrated team approach.
- State the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in a sample of primary care patients
- Describe patient preferences for discussing sexual health concerns
- Explain why the integrated primary care setting is well-suited for addressing sexual health concerns