Stability of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Female Sexual Functioning

Andrea Burri, Soshiro Ogata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Genetic factors have been implicated in the etiology of female sexual dysfunction. Yet, how much the dynamic nature of sexual functioning is influenced by changes in genetic and/or environmental factors remains unknown. Aim: To explore temporal stability of genetic and environmental influences on female sexual functioning over a 4-year period. Methods: Data on desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain were collected in 2009 and 2013 using the Female Sexual Function Index and were available for 1,209 British twin women. Outcomes: To track the stability of genetic influences the Female Sexual Function Index sub-domain and total scores were subject to multivariate twin analyses for repeated measures. 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 additive environmental (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. Clinical Translation: The biological pre-disposition to sexual problems seems to remain relatively stable over time. Conclusions: This is the first study to investigate the genetic stability of female sexual functioning in a large population sample of women. White ethnicity and the relatively high mean age of women asks for caution in extrapolating the findings to other ethnic and age groups. 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 sexual problems. Integration of these findings may provide a useful conceptual framework for the treatment and prevention of certain types of sexual problems. Burri A, Ogata S. Stability of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Female Sexual Functioning. J Sex Med 2018;15:550–557.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-557
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 04-2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Urology


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