Obese people report sexual problems such as lack of desire, lack of enjoyment, avoiding sex and performance difficulty at a much higher rate than people of normal weight in some cases, they are 25 times more likely to report problems, according to the Duke study. Overall, women experienced more difficulties than men among both weight groups, but the gender differences were small compared to the disparity between the obese and normal weight study populations.
"Our study shows a striking difference in sexual quality of life between obese and normal weight people. Sexual quality of life is an important issue for everyone, and with the growing prevalence of obesity in this country, increasing numbers of people will likely be affected," said study co-investigator Martin Binks, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and director of behavioral health at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center.
The results were presented Nov. 15, 2004, at the annual meeting of The North American Association for the Study of Obesity in Las Vegas. Funding was provided by the Duke Diet & Fitness Center, a residential treatment program for obesity that emphasizes lifestyle change, physical activity and healthful eating.
Co-investigator Ronette Kolotkin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with experience treating obese patients, said losing weight and increasing physical activity can help restore sexual quality of life for people with obesity-related problems.
"My patients tell me that losing a little weight and getting fit makes them feel 10 to 20 years younger in terms of their sexual quality of life," she said. Kolotkin developed the 31-item study questionnaire, called Impact of Weight on Quality of Life-Lite, which evaluates all aspects of weight-related quality of life.