Despite the recent focus on sexual behaviour and AIDs, there are almost no data on the prevalence of sexual dysfunction within primary care settings.


One hundred and seventy patients attending a general practice participated in a questionnaire survey of the prevalence and characteristics of sexual problems. The detection rate of the general practitioners (GPs) and indicators in the patient notes were also investigated.


Thirty five per cent of the men (n = 22) reported some form of specific sexual dysfunction: premature ejaculation was identified in 31 per cent of the men; 17 per cent experienced erectile dysfunction, which was associated with current medication, a high mean annual attendance and increasing age. The prevalence of sexual dysfunction in the women was 42 per cent (n = 41) vaginismus was reported by 30 per cent of the sample; 23 per cent of the women suffered from anorgasmia. General sexual dissatisfaction was more common than specific dysfunction; 68 per cent (n = 66) of the women and 75 per cent (n = 54) of the men reported at least one problem with dissatisfaction, avoidance, infrequency or non-communication. The large majority of the sample (70 per cent) considered sexual matters to be an appropriate topic for the GP to discuss. Despite this, sexual problems were recorded in only 2 per cent of the GP notes.


This study confirms the high prevalence of sexual disorders in the population. Many of these problems are concealed from GPs. Predictors in patients' notes could help GPs to detect those patients with more serious problems.

Author notes

*This paper was the winning entry for the Sir John Brotherston Prize