Sexual Problems: Whom Do You Trust To Treat Them?

Who has more problems when it comes to sex: men or women, single or married, young or old? This is an age-old question among experts and anyone with an opinion. When an answer appears, as it did recently in the results of a new survey, new questions emerge: Is the result valid or methodologically biased? Does the result generalize, and therefore misrepresent, what's really going on? Can we really trust the findings? These are all good questions, but they don't really matter if no one is available to treat the problem.

Recently, a large survey study in the U.K. interviewed more than 11,000 British subjects about their sex lives and any problems they might by having in this area. The researchers found that married women were more likely than single women to report sexual difficulties. Among males, single men had higher rates of problems than either married men or unmarried men living with their partners. Overall, more than half (54 percent) of the women and more than one-third (35 percent) of the men reported a persistent sexual problem. Somewhat amazingly, however, only 20 percent of these women and 10 percent of the men ever sought professional help for their problem despite the important role we assign to sex in our lives.

The rates of sexual dysfunction don't really surprise me, considering that the National Health and Social Life Survey conducted in the U.S. in the early 1990s found very similar problem rates. What continues to surprise me is how few men and women seek professional guidance to treat their problems. These results tell me that we still have a long way to go in building people's confidence in the abilities of our health care professionals to deliver knowledgeable and empathetic care for their sexual difficulties. This can be changed through comprehensive education in human sexuality in the schools that train our health care providers.