Sexual dysfunction among male veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: prevalence and correlates

G M Monawar Hosain, David M Latini, Michael Kauth, Heather Honoré Goltz, Drew A Helmer
Journal of Sexual Medicine 2013, 10 (2): 516-23

INTRODUCTION: Sexual dysfunction (SD) is not well described in the Iraq/Afghanistan veteran population despite high prevalence of multiple risk factors for this issue.

AIM: To estimate the prevalence and examine the association of various sociodemographic, mental health, comorbid conditions and life style factors with sexual dysfunction in Iraq/Afghanistan veterans.

METHODS: This exploratory cross-sectional study was conducted using data from the VA administrative database. A total of 4,755 Iraq/Afghanistan veterans were identified who sought treatment from the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center inpatient and outpatient clinic between September 2007 and August 2009.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sexual dysfunction was determined by ICD9-CM codes related to sexual health issues and/or by specific medications, primarily phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (PDE5i), prescribed for erectile dysfunction.

RESULTS: The overall prevalence of sexual dysfunction was 5.5% (N = 265). By age category, it was 3.6% (N = 145) for Iraq/Afghanistan veterans aged 18-40 years and 15.7% (N = 120) for Iraq/Afghanistan veterans aged > 40 years, respectively. A multivariate logistic-regression model revealed that annual income, marital status, post-traumatic stress disorder, and hypertension were significant risk factors of SD (all P < 0.05) among younger Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, whereas among the older Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, being African American and having PTSD and hypertension were significant risk factors of SD (all P < 0.05). There was marked discrepancy between documented erectile dysfunction and prescription of a PDE5i.

CONCLUSIONS: These data demonstrate that a significant proportion of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans have SD and that the risk factors differ between younger and older veterans. Our findings also suggest that SD is likely under-coded. To better identify the scope of the problem, systematic screening for sexual dysfunction may be appropriate perhaps as part of an initial post-deployment health evaluation.

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