Young People Can Suffer from Sexual Dysfunction


Although most young people have a healthy sex life, many-and particularly young women- may have one or more sexual dysfunction issues, according to results of health survey.

Results of a 2010 French National Sexual and Reproductive Health Survey, published in BMC Public Health show that many young women have one or more sexual dysfunction issues. Yet they may not consider sexual dysfunction to hinder their sexuality.

The survey of a random sampling of 2,309 teens and young adults aged 15 to 24 included 842 women and 642 men who had sexual intercourse over the past year and resided in France. The participants were interviewed for 40 minutes over the phone.

The mean age of the participants was 20.2 and most subjects had a partner at the time they were interviewed. Men reported losing their virginity at 15.8 years and women at 16.5 years. Males had, on average, 6.4 lifetime sexual partners and females had 3.6.


Females report more sexual dysfunction than males

Half of the women surveyed (52%) reported at least one sexual dysfunction, most commonly lack of sexual desire and difficulty reaching orgasm, followed by pain during intercourse and vaginal dryness. Twenty-four percent of women said they often or sometimes experienced a lack of sexual desire and 28% said they often or sometimes were non-orgasmic (Table 1). In addition, women with a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and/or unintended pregnancy were more likely to report sexual dysfunctions.

Among men, 23% reported a sexual dysfunction, including lack of desire, difficulty reaching orgasm, pain during intercourse, premature ejaculation, and problems maintaining an erection.

Twenty-three percent of women and 6% of men reported more than one sexual dysfunction.

Table 1. Common Sexual Dysfunctions in Teens and Young Adults

Sexual dysfunction (occurring often or sometimes)
Lack of sexual desire
Difficulty reaching orgasm
Pain during intercourse
Premature ejaculation
Difficulty maintaining erection
Vaginal dryness


Sexual issues can hinder sexuality

Many teens and young adults surveyed did not feel that their sex lives were hindered by their sexual dysfunction. Among those who were distressed, women were more likely to report that a sexual dysfunction affected their sexuality than were men (31% vs 9%, respectively). Pain during intercourse was the dysfunction most likely to impact women’s sex lives, followed by lack of desire, difficulty reaching orgasm, and lack of pleasure during intercourse. Premature ejaculation, lack of sexual desire, lack of pleasure during intercourse, and difficulty reaching orgasm were most prominent in hindering men’s sex lives.


Study contributes new knowledge

Most sexual health research about teens and young adults has focused on STIs, unintended pregnancy, and sexual coercion. Relatively little is known about the extent or impact of sexual dysfunction, but there is growing awareness that young people can suffer from sexual dysfunction just as adults can.

This study contributes new knowledge regarding the sex lives of teens and young adults, indicating that although most sexually active teens and young adults in France have a satisfying sex life, sexual dysfunction is common but does not always impact sexuality. This is significant, because there is debate over whether personal distress over a sexual difficulty is essential to making the diagnosis of a sexual dysfunction, as the DSM-V definition states.

The study also indicates that individuals with one sexual dysfunction are likely to have more than one symptom.

Future longitudinal research is called for, concluded the investigators, to determine if sexual dysfunction, as well as sexual dysfunction that negatively impacts sexuality, persists into later adulthood, and, if so, how dysfunction evolves over time and across relationships, and impacts other domains of sexual health, sexual identity, and attitudes, feelings, and experiences of sexual activity. Other research might look into the relationship between contraceptive usage, particularly condom usage, the authors said, which they did not explore in this study. 

Until more is known, the researchers concluded by suggesting that clinicians “screen for and address sexual dysfunction, which substantially reduces youth sexual wellbeing and [is] related to other common sexual health concerns among youth including STIs and unintended pregnancies.”

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