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Concerns about appearance mar sexual function in women

30 Nov 2019

Appearance anxiety impairs sexual functioning among middle-aged women, a recent study has shown.

The study included 329 sexually active women (mean age, 33.0±7.1 years) who had been in a stable heterosexual relationship for at least 6 months. Outcomes were measured using the Appearance Anxiety Inventory (AAI), Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

The mean body mass index (BMI) was 24.5±7.1 kg/m2 and average waist circumference (WC) was 74.6±9.9 cm. Skin-fold thickness (SFT) at the scapula, triceps and abdomen were 19.5±3.9, 24.9±5.2 and 32.2±7.2 mm, respectively. The corresponding mean scores for the AAI, BDI and FSF were 4.5±5.5, 10.8±7.9 and 30±6.3.

Appearance anxiety was significantly and positively associated with BMI, WC and SFT in the abdomen, as well as with BDI scores and having undergone prior surgeries. FSFI, on the other hand, was significantly but negatively correlated with BMI, WC and SFT, particularly at the abdomen. This was true for all subdomains of the FSFI.

Hierarchical multiple linear regression analysis showed that SFT at the abdomen was a significant and negative predictor of sexual function, but sequential addition of depression and appearance anxiety to the model eliminated this relationship.

The final model found that appearance anxiety accounted for variance in sexual function in 43 percent of the women, while depression could predict 38 percent of the variance.

“There exist morphologic measurements beyond BMI that are relevant in the relationship between appearance anxiety and sexual functions,” said researchers. “Scars on the body due to previous surgery should also be considered during evaluations of body image and its projections for clinical studies.”

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