Previous research suggests that women who experience pain during intercourse also experience higher rates of depressive symptoms. Loneliness might be one factor that contributes to this relationship. We hypothesized that women who experience more severe and interfering pain during intercourse would report higher rates of loneliness and higher rates of depressive symptoms. Further, we hypothesized that loneliness would mediate the relationship between pain during intercourse and depressive symptoms. A total of 104 female participants (85.6% white, 74.03% partnered, 20.9 [3.01] years old) completed an online survey including demographic information, PROMIS Vaginal Discomfort Measure, PROMIS Depression Measure, and Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale. Pearson correlations and bootstrapped mediation analysis examined the relationships among pain during intercourse, loneliness, and depressive symptoms. Pain during intercourse, loneliness, and depressive symptoms were all significantly correlated (p < .05). Results of the mediation analysis indicated that loneliness was a significant mediator of the relationship between pain during intercourse and depressive symptoms (indirect effect = 0.077; 95% CI 0.05-0.19). After accounting for loneliness, pain during intercourse was not significantly related to depressive symptoms, suggesting that loneliness fully mediated the relationship between pain during intercourse and depressive symptoms. These findings are consistent with previous studies highlighting that pain during intercourse is related to depressive symptoms. The current study adds to that literature and suggests that more frequent and severe pain during intercourse leads to more loneliness, which then leads to increased depressive symptoms. This line of work has important implications for treating women who experience depressive symptoms and pain during intercourse.
Keywords: Depression; Dyspareunia; Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder; Loneliness; Sexual function; Vaginismus.