Internet-based sexual health resources for those living with spinal cord injury: A content analysis

J Spinal Cord Med. 2023 Jul 10:1-22. doi: 10.1080/10790268.2023.2220509. Online ahead of print.


Context: Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) disrupt physiological functioning which can significantly impact sexuality. Those with SCI may rely heavily on Internet sexual health resources for many reasons. Evaluation of current internet health resources is warranted to identify the gaps in the literature.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to conduct a purposive review of available Internet sexual health resources for those with SCI.

Methods: A Google search was completed with search terms such as: "SCI and sexual functioning", "SCI and sexuality", "SCI and pregnancy" and "SCI and sexual pleasure". Resources were selected if they: (1) provided sexual health education to those with SCI; (2) were designed to increase skills-based learning or influence attitudes and beliefs; and (3) in English language. All identified resources were imported to NVivo 1.5.1 where a thematic content analysis was conducted.

Results: The search resulted in 123 resources meeting the criteria. The most common themes included: Sexual functioning (in 83.7% of resources), Reproductive health (67.5%) and Impact of Secondary Complications (61.8%). The least common themes were Psychosocial (24.4%), Stigma (13.8%), and Quality of Life (12.2%). No information was coded for LGBTQ+.

Discussion: Sexual health and SCI information focuses primarily on heterosexual males and specifically on sexual functioning. Resources addressing female sexuality were extremely limited and focused largely on reproduction. There was a complete absence of resource aimed to address LGBTQ+ people.

Conclusion: The results demonstrate a need for Internet-based sexual health education resources to meet the needs of diverse individuals including women and gender non-conforming people.

Keywords: Internet resources; Sexual health; Sexuality; Spinal cord injury.