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  1. #1
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    Surveying the Sex Lives of Medical Students

    Read this article on Medescape today. Medscape: Free CME, Medical News, Full-text Journal Articles & More



    Posted 05/14/2008
    Alan W. Shindel, MD

    The 20s are a peak period of sexual activity in many people's lives. For most aspiring physicians, this period coincides with their medical training. However, little is known about the sexual attitudes and activities of medical students.

    What we do know is that medical school is a rigorous process known to take a psychological and emotional toll on physicians in training. Despite growing attention to their well-being, it is clear that medical school can be a stressful experience.[1] Medical trainees who are in committed sexual relationships must also contend with balancing their partners' needs against the demands of their educational program.[2]


    A recent study of sexual function in Chinese medical students provided some interesting data on medical student sexuality in that country,[3] but the last peer-reviewed reports on sexual dysfunction in US medical students were published decades ago. In 1967, Woods and Natterson reported that 22 of 40 male medical students had some concerns about their sexual potency.[4] However, social mores and the demographic characteristics of medical students are radically different now, and it is unclear whether those findings are still applicable.


    On the basis of my own recollections of medical training, I was intrigued to investigate the sexual behaviors and incidence of sexual problems in contemporary medical students. Our research team conducted a pilot study of sexual dysfunction among medical students enrolled at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri.


    The survey consisted of a basic demographic questionnaire coupled with validated instruments for the assessment of human sexuality: For male participants, we used the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF), the Self Esteem and Relationship Quality survey (SEAR), and the Index of Premature Ejaculation (IPE); for female participants, we used the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) and the Index of Sex Life (ISL).


    The study group included 54 men and 78 women. The group's self-reported sexual history was generally similar to age-matched normative data (eg, age at first intercourse, number of sexual partners, intercourse frequency).[5,6]


    Although sexual behaviors in our study population were similar to existing normative data from an age-matched population, male medical students reported a higher incidence of erectile dysfunction (roughly 30%) compared with normative data (estimated at 7% among US men 18-29 years old). However, the incidence of other sexual problems in men, such as premature ejaculation, was similar to normative data.[7]


    Our data revealed a high frequency of sexual problems among female students as well: 63% were at "high risk" for sexual dysfunction on the basis of validated FSFI cutoff scores. The most prevalent problems were low scores in the areas of "desire," "orgasm," and "pain." When compared with normative data, orgasm and pain complaints were more prevalent in the study group, although the incidence of low sexual desire was similar to that of an age-matched population.[7] In addition, 42% of the female medical students reported interference in their sexual life from "excessive tiredness," and more than one third blamed interference on a "lack of sexual partner" or "psychological stress."


    Being in a relationship correlated with better sexual function scores in both male and female medical students, and relationship quality (as assessed by the SEAR tool in men and the ISL measure in women) was highly predictive of overall sexual satisfaction.


    The results of this study were published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.[8] Although these pilot data are intriguing, we are reluctant to generalize them to the larger medical student population, due to the small sample size and limitations of a single-institution study group. Furthermore, the normative data used for comparison purposes did not represent a true control group, because the data were derived from a questionnaire with single-item, Likert-style questions. Most importantly, our pilot study did not include a measure to assess personal distress related to sexual function, which is a key criterion for the clinical diagnosis of a true sexual problem.


    In order to obtain more definitive data, we are now conducting a survey of stress, sexuality, and sexual dysfunction in students enrolled at allopathic and osteopathic medical schools in North America. Approval for this study has been obtained from the Committee for Human Research at the University of California, San Francisco. Support and endorsement of this study have been obtained from the American Medical Student Association and are being sought from the Sexual Medicine Society of North America.
    This current survey is a marked improvement over the pilot project. We are using the same validated survey tools that were used in the pilot study, but have made subtle modifications to improve their applicability to sexual minority groups. In addition to the sex-specific instruments, we have included 2 validated instruments for the assessment of depressive and anxiety symptoms; these instruments will provide interesting data in their own right and may reveal intriguing relationships with the sexuality-specific instruments. We have expanded the survey to include new questions on sexual experiences, personal stress related to sexual function, and comfort in dealing with sexuality issues in clinical practice.


    The research team on this new project includes a number of outstanding collaborators from a variety of research backgrounds. Dr. Christian J. Nelson, PhD, is a clinical psychologist from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, who has substantial experience dealing with the psychological aspects of sexuality. Kathryn Ando, PhD (c), is a sexologist from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, California. Dr. Ando's expertise in sexological research complements the clinical perspective of the other team members and will add a new dimension to our analysis of the results. Finally, Tom F. Lue, MD, is a world-renowned expert and pioneer in the field of men's sexual health. He has served as mentor and advisor for this project. The diverse backgrounds of the research team members have already enhanced the design of the survey, and we are confident that the variety of perspectives that are brought to the table by this team will lead to very interesting analyses of our data set.


    It is our hope to accurately assess stress, sexuality, and the incidence of sexual problems in this population to answer an interesting, unanswered academic question. Furthermore, we hope to increase awareness of the importance of sexuality as an important component of quality of life in the medical school population. Increased awareness will hopefully make it easier for medical students with sexual concerns to feel more comfortable addressing these issues and seeking assistance for any problems that they might be experiencing. With improved understanding and awareness, we are optimistic that our results may help improve medical student quality of life.


    Students who are currently enrolled in an allopathic or osteopathic medical school are invited to take the survey if they have not already done so. The survey may be accessed at https://www.questionpro.com/akira/TakeSurvey?id=857308.
    General questions about this research project may be directed to Alan W. Shindel, MD, the principal investigator, at [email protected] .

  2. #11
    stephew is offline Moderator Guru 512 points
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    thats one of those questions where if you have to ask, any problems having on that account lie with the asker.
    Steph
    If you get a warning, put on yer manpants and stop whining about it.

  3. #12
    kryptik's Avatar
    kryptik is offline Ultimate Member 510 points
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    Quote Originally Posted by stephew View Post
    thats one of those questions where if you have to ask, any problems having on that account lie with the asker.

  4. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by teratos View Post
    Studies show that people who suffer from sexual dysfunction are the ones who talk about it the most...
    Can you site the studies? - I guess the folks who did the studies must also have lots of dysfunction since by talking about this subject they are doing the very thing that you (and the study authors) say indicates dysfunction.

  5. #14
    kryptik's Avatar
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    my question mainly stems from reading this article on medscape http://www.valuemd.com/relaxing-loun...tml#post820998

  6. #15
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    If you're not satisfied at home, not much will change on the islands.

  7. #16
    DrFraud's Avatar
    DrFraud is offline Elite Member 6132 points
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainInsaneO View Post
    If you're not satisfied at home, not much will change on the islands.
    maybe its the big white mask.

  8. #17
    stephew is offline Moderator Guru 512 points
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    the captain is right. Usually those who expend a lot of energy along this line are very young, very inexperienced, or have some personal issues that make a fulfilling social life difficult. Most adults have come to the conclusion that life carries on in more or less the same manner wherever you go. The good and the bad.
    Steph
    If you get a warning, put on yer manpants and stop whining about it.

  9. #18
    stephew is offline Moderator Guru 512 points
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    Quote Originally Posted by kryptik View Post
    dont be shy ...only a few thousand forum members will know, on a serious note i read medical school can have adverse effects on ones sexual life during and after school.
    you can read anything which will make believing everything you read quiate a challenge. So good luck with that.
    Steph
    If you get a warning, put on yer manpants and stop whining about it.

  10. #19
    kryptik's Avatar
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    ok steph and anyone else do a lot of people find gf/bf on the island, do some date the locals/tourists, is dating frowned upon, etc

  11. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrFraud View Post
    Can you site the studies? - I guess the folks who did the studies must also have lots of dysfunction since by talking about this subject they are doing the very thing that you (and the study authors) say indicates dysfunction.

    I didn't bother to memorize them. I was too busy cruising chicks and sucking face.....
    AUC Class of '99
    Bored certified
    I may be a jerk, but I'm a Jedi jerk like my father.

    Some say I look like Buzz Lightyear....
    (They're right)

    DISCLAIMER: I have no financial stake in ValueMD, or any medical school.

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