Multicenter Study of Sexual Functioning in Spouses/Partners of Persons With Traumatic Brain Injury

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 May;97(5):753-9. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2016.01.009. Epub 2016 Feb 1.


Objective: To investigate sexual functioning and its predictors in spouses/partners of persons with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Design: Inception cohort survey.

Setting: Community.

Participants: Persons (N=70) with complicated mild to severe TBI admitted to 1 of 6 participating TBI Model Systems inpatient rehabilitation units and their spouses/partners who were both living in the community and assessed 1 year after injury.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning Self-Report; Global Sexual Satisfaction Index.

Results: Twenty percent of spouses/partners of persons with TBI reported sexual dysfunction, and 44% reported dissatisfaction with sexual functioning. Sixty-two percent of spouses/partners reported a decrease in sexual activity during the year postinjury, 34% reported a decrease in sexual drive or desire, and 34% indicated that sexuality was less important in comparison to preinjury. The sexual functioning of spouses/partners of persons with TBI was highly associated with the sexual functioning of the person with TBI. Age of spouses/partners and sexual functioning in persons with the TBI were significant predictors of spouses'/partners' sexual functioning, even after controlling for sex of partners and the physical, cognitive, participation, and sexual functioning of the persons with injury.

Conclusions: Greater sexual dysfunction in spouses/partners was associated with older age and with poorer sexual functioning in the person with injury. Rehabilitation professionals should provide education on the potential impact of TBI on sexual functioning for both persons with TBI and their spouses/partners, and integrate the assessment of sexual functioning into their clinical assessment, making appropriate referrals for therapy.

Keywords: Brain injuries; Rehabilitation; Sexual behavior; Sexual partners; Spouses.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Spouses / psychology*