Chronic disease and sexuality: a generic conceptual framework

J Sex Res. 2010 Mar;47(2):153-70. doi: 10.1080/00224491003658227.


Although sexual dysfunctions are frequently comorbid with many chronic diseases and their treatments, until recently, these dysfunctions have been neglected in both research and clinical practice. Fortunately, sexual functioning in the context of chronic disease has now begun to receive more scientific attention. Studies in the field are, however, quite diverse in terms of topics and methodology, not only making comparisons across studies on a single disease difficult, but also making comparisons across different diseases impossible. In an attempt to inspire researchers, this article presents a "generic" conceptual framework regarding the impact of chronic diseases (and their treatments) on sexual function. The major goals of this conceptual framework are to provide an in-depth analysis of, and insight into, the process by which disease-related psychological and relational factors impact the sexual functioning and well-being of patients, their partners, and their relationships. Some of the associations within the conceptual framework have already been supported by the results of empirical studies on various diseases. This review ends with an overview of the limitations of previous research, proposes a research agenda for the field, and presents a research tool that may be helpful in developing new studies investigating the association between chronic diseases and sexuality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease* / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease* / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Hyperprolactinemia / complications
  • Hypogonadism / complications
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Mental Health
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Research Design
  • Sexology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / epidemiology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / etiology
  • Sexuality* / physiology
  • Sexuality* / psychology
  • Vascular Diseases / complications