05 February 2009

Libido being redefined

Research shows that women with a low libido don't have a great quality of life, adding fuel to the debate whether a low libido is actually being medicalised for cynical reasons.

Research shows that women with a low libido don't have a great quality of life, but some ask whether a low libido is actually being medicalised for cynical reasons.

The researchers found that postmenopausal women who have hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) - a low level of sexual desire - have a worse health-related quality of life than their counterparts who are happy with their sex lives, according to a new study. In fact, the researchers say, HSDD can cause in impairments in well-being on par with those seen in chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis and asthma.

HSDD, the "persistent lack of sexual desire causing 'marked stress or interpersonal difficulties,'" is included in the Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which lists and defines mental illnesses widely accepted by the psychiatric establishment.

But questions remain about whether HSDD is a real problem for women, or whether it represents a disorder that has become 'medicalised' because of its pharmaceutical market potential. Dr Andrea K. Biddle of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and colleagues discuss this in the Value of Health, a journal published by the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research.

How the current study was done
One member of Biddle's research team works for Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which also funded the research and provided consultation for the survey. Procter and Gamble makes a testosterone patch, Intrinsa, which is approved for treating HSDD in Europe. A US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted against approving Intrinsa in December 2004, citing lack of evidence for its long-term safety.

In the current study, Biddle and her team looked at data for 1 189 women who had gone through natural menopause or surgical menopause, in which their ovaries were removed, to test the impact of HSDD on women's health and well-being. All of the women, who ranged in age from 30 to 70 years, were in a stable relationship for at least three months.

Among women who underwent natural menopause, 6.6% met the criteria for HSDD, while 12.5% of women who had surgical menopause met the criteria. Women considered to have HSDD were less satisfied with their home life and their emotional and physical relationship with their sexual partner, and were also more likely to be depressed, the researchers found.

They were also about twice as likely to have back pain, fatigue, problems with memory, and depression. The women with HSDD scored lower on several measures of health-related quality of life including mental health, vitality, social function and bodily pain.

Overall, the researchers conclude that their findings "suggest that HSDD represents a significant and clinically relevant problem". – (Reuters Health, February 2009)

Read more:
Hormone patch lifts libido
Drug to up female sex drive


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