Intended for healthcare professionals


Obesity and poor sexual health outcomes

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 15 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2826
  1. Sandy Goldbeck-Wood, associate specialist in psychosexual medicine1, specialty doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology2
  1. 1Sexual Problems Clinic, Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust, London WC1X 9DN
  2. 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ipswich Hospital, Ipswich IP4 5PD
  1. goldbeckwood{at}

    Clinicians must be prepared to discuss sex and weight with patients

    Obesity and sex are subjects that doctors find especially difficult to discuss with patients, despite evidence that such discussions help. Although short conversations (three to five minutes) during routine visits can contribute to changes in behaviour, such as increasing physical activity, eating less fat, and losing weight, most primary care professionals do not talk to their patients about weight.1

    Sex is an even greater taboo—even clinicians who are comfortable with discussing periods or bowel motions and treating conditions where sex is known to be affected routinely fail to ask about sexual function, with lack of skill and time and discomfort cited as reasons.2 3 Around 68% of respondents in a population based telephone survey from Washington said they would be reluctant to discuss a sexual problem for fear of embarrassing their doctor.4 The linked population based survey by Bajos and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.c2573) relates to both of these taboo areas.5

    Bajos and colleagues report the largest survey of obesity and sexuality to look at both men and women in a manner representative of the wider population. Previous studies of obesity and sexuality have tended to focus on small samples in particular subgroups, such as erectile dysfunction in morbidly obese men or sexual function in women awaiting bariatric surgery. Meanwhile, wider studies of sexual function often focus purely on …

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