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Stability of genetic and environmental influences on female sexual functioning

Burri, A1; Ogata, S2

1: Private Institute of Urology, Andrology and Sexual Medicine, Hamburg, Germany; 2: National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Centre, Osaka, Japan

Objective. Genetic factors have been implicated in the etiology of female sexual dysfunction (FSD). Yet, how much the dynamic nature of sexual functioning is influenced by changes in genetic and/or environmental factors remains unknown. The objective was to explore temporal stability of genetic and environmental influences to sexual functioning over a 4-year period in 1,209 female twins.

Material and Methods. Data on desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain was collected in 2009 and 2013 using the Female Sexual Function Index. Multivariate twin analyses for repeated measures were conducted to track the stability of genetic influences.

Results. Desire showed a lower heritability at follow-up (37% vs. 14%,) whereas for arousal and sexual pain the heritability at follow-up was higher compared to baseline (28% vs. 34% and 30% vs. 45, respectively). The heritability of lubrication remained stable at 27%. According to the best fitting AE Cholesky model for all domains except for sexual pain there were no new genetic factors expressing themselves over the 4-year period but an addition of new, unique environmental determinants could be observed. For sexual pain an additional genetic factor could be observed at follow-up, explaining 39% of the phenotypic variance. The biological predisposition to FSD seems to remain relatively stable over time.

Conclusions. The findings highlight the value of more in depth exploration of the non-shared environmental influences that could provide clues to the mechanisms behind remittance and/or persistence of FSD. Integration of these findings may provide a useful conceptual framework for the treatment and prevention of certain types of FSD.


Work supported by industry: no. The presenter or any of the authors act as a consultant, employee (part time or full time) or shareholder of an industry.

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