Study Examines Effects of Confinement on Sexual Function During COVID-19

To what extent might COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdown and social distancing mandates affect the sexual functioning of men and women?

Researchers report that psychological adjustment to confinement may affect men more than women.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold during 2020, governments around the world implemented lockdown and social distancing measures to slow down the spread of the virus. These changes may influence mental health, but the effects on sexuality have not been thoroughly investigated.

The current study, published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine as a journal pre-proof in April 2021, focused on the role of psychological adjustment during isolation and its effects on the relationship between confinement levels and sexual dysfunction.

In May 2020, the research team surveyed 245 men (mean age 41.8 years) and 417 women (mean age 34 years) in Portugal about their experiences with COVID-19 confinement, psychological adjustments, and sexual function. All of the participants were heterosexual. About 53% were either married or living with a partner.

Portugal’s first confinement period ran from March 19, 2020 to May 4, 2020 and continued with “alleviating measures” from May 4, 2020 to June 1, 2020.

For men, the researchers reported that “psychological adjustment mediated the effects of confinement” in the areas of sexual desire, erectile function, sexual satisfaction, and overall satisfaction, but not for orgasmic function.

“Accordingly, increased psychopathological symptomatology during lockdown accounted for lower levels of sexual desire, erectile capability, sexual and overall satisfaction,” the authors explained.

In women, mediating effects were not found for sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, or pain. However, psychological adjustment did predict women’s sexual functioning, the authors said.

“Confinement levels did not have a relationship with women’s sexual functioning domains. In addition, and contrary to men, psychological adjustment during lockdown did not mediate such relationship as well. Also, it is worth noting that women’s confinement levels did not predict psychological adjustment as they did in men,” they wrote.

They recommended that clinicians consider the emotional and psychological contexts of the time when developing interventions for sexual problems related to COVID-19.



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