Are depression and poor sexual health neglected comorbidities? Evidence from a population sample
Field N., Prah P., Mercer CH., Rait G., King M., Cassell JA., Tanton C., Heath L., Mitchell KR., Clifton S., Datta J., Wellings K., Johnson AM., Sonnenberg P.
Objective: To examine associations between sexual behaviour, sexual function and sexual health service use of individuals with depression in the British general population, to inform primary care and specialist services. Setting: British general population. Participants: 15 162 men and women aged 16-74 years were interviewed for the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), undertaken in 2010-2012. Using age-adjusted ORs (aAOR), relative to a comparator group reporting no treatment or symptoms, we compared the sexual health of those reporting treatment for depression in the past year. Outcome measures: Sexual risk behaviour, sexual function, sexual satisfaction and sexual health service use. Results: 1331 participants reported treatment for depression (5.2% men; 11.8% women). Relative to the comparator group, treatment for depression was associated with reporting 2 or more sexual partners without condoms (men aAOR 2.07 (95% CI 1.38 to 3.10); women 2.22 (1.68 to 2.92)), and concurrent partnerships (men 1.80 (1.18 to 2.76); women 2.06 (1.48 to 2.88)), in the past year. Those reporting depression treatment were more likely to be dissatisfied with their sex lives (men 2.32 (1.74 to 3.11); women 2.30 (1.89 to 2.79)), and to score in the lowest quintile on the Natsal-sexual function measure. They were also more likely to report a recent chlamydia test (men 1.92 (1.15 to 3.20)); women (1.27 (1.01 to 1.60)), and to have sought help regarding their sex life from a healthcare professional (men 2.92 (1.98 to 4.30); women (2.36 (1.83 to 3.04)), most commonly from a family doctor. Women only were more likely to report attending a sexual health clinic (1.91 (1.42 to 2.58)) and use of emergency contraception (1.98 (1.23 to 3.19)). Associations were broadly similar for individuals with depressive symptoms but not reporting treatment. Conclusions: Depression, measured by reported treatment, was strongly associated with sexual risk behaviours, reduced sexual function and increased use of sexual health services, with many people reporting help doing so from a family doctor. The sexual health of depressed people needs consideration in primary care, and mental health assessment might benefit people attending sexual health services.