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Comparing symptom networks of women with reduced, increased, and stable sexual desire

Gunst, A1; Werner, M2; Waldorp, L3; Laan, ETM2; Källström, M4; Jern, P4

1: University of Turku, Finland; 2: Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; 3: University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; 4: Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Objective: Difficulties related to low sexual desire in women are common, and strongly associated with reduced well-being and relationship satisfaction. Treatment for low sexual desire tends to be mediocre in efficacy, and longitudinal studies have largely failed to establish clear-cut causal etiological factors. The present study set out to investigate the nature of sexual desire difficulties in women using a novel network perspective of mental disorders, which builds on the assumptions that symptoms interact in a complex network, and that individuals differ in terms of how strongly symptoms are connected to one another.

Material and Methods: We compared group level networks of women whose sexual desire decreased, increased, and stayed the same over time, using longitudinal population-based data from Finnish women collected in 2006 and 2013. Networks were analyzed using the R package mgm developed for complex network data. Sexual desire was assessed using the Female Sexual Function Index and the Sexual Desire Inventory. Other factors (i.e., symptoms) included in the network model were, among others, sexual distress, other sexual functions, sexual satisfaction, anxiety, depression, body image, and number of children.

Results: Symptom strength, symptom centrality, and clustering of the symptoms were estimated for each group and compared between groups, in order to assess whether the symptom structure differed between the groups.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study utilizing network theory to investigate symptom networks for sexual desire in women, setting the stage for future within-person network modeling of symptoms (i.e., factors) related to sexual desire in women.


Work supported by industry: no.

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