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Publication Briefs

Journal Issue Targets Veterans' Sexual Health and Functioning

According to one population-based U.S. study, 43% of adult women and 31% of men experience sexual problems characterized by decreased or absent sexual desire or problems associated with arousal or orgasm. Studies of people in healthcare settings find higher rates, ranging from 25% to 63% of women and 10% to 52% of men. These rates are alarming given their impact on intimate relationships and quality of life. The literature on military Veterans' sexual health and functioning is largely limited to medication effects on desire and arousal — and to military sexual trauma. The International Journal of Sexual Health is the first scientific journal to devote an issue to the sexual health and functioning of military Veterans. Articles in this issue, many authored or co-authored by HSR&D investigators, describe the effects of combat experiences on American Veterans' sexual functioning, sexual risk behavior, mental health, health status, and relationships. In addition, articles describe the effects of sexual assault on women's sexual health, and healthcare use among transgender Veterans. The Introduction, also written by an HSR&D investigator, provides background information and an overview of the issue.


  • Former Surgeon General Satcher, et al. noted that combat often follows service members home and affects their ability to be intimate and sexual, which also negatively affects their partners and families. The authors issue a strong call to action to attend to and value the sexual health needs of men and women who have served in the military.
  • Nunnink, et al. examined 415 Veterans and found that sexual dysfunction was a unique contributor — above depression, anxiety, and PTSD — to lower psychological well-being.
  • Suvak, et al. found that among 589 Marines (11 years after joining the service) depression and alcohol abuse best predicted lower sexual frequency especially for women, while depression and military sexual assault best predicted sexual dissatisfaction.
  • Turchik, et al. examined VA medical records for more than 400,000 recently returned OEF/OIF male and female Veterans and found that military sexual trauma was strongly associated with sexually transmitted infections and sexual dysfunctions compared with those without sexual trauma.
  • Sadler, et al. interviewed more than 1,000 female Veterans. Almost 70% reported that sex was moderately or extremely important to them, and more than half reported having experienced at least one sexual assault. Even one assault was associated with long-term sexual problems.
  • Shipherd, et al. described healthcare use among 45 transgender Veterans. Although most (84%) routinely received healthcare, only 18% used VA healthcare. However, only one Veteran expressed concern about fear of discrimination at VA. In general, transgender Veterans reported relatively poor mental health functioning.


Kauth M. Introduction to Special Issue on Veterans' Sexual Health and Functioning. International Journal of Sexual Health (IJSH) March 26, 2012;24(1):1-5:Epub before print.

Satcher D, Tepper M, Thrasher C, and Rachel S. Breaking the Silence: Supporting Intimate Relationships for Our Wounded Troops and Their Partners: A Call to Action. IJSH March 26, 2012;24(1):6-13:Epub before print.

Nunnink S, Fink D, and Baker D. The Impact of Sexual Functioning Problems on Mental Well-Being in U.S. Veterans from the OEF/OIF Conflicts. IJSH March 26, 2012;24(1):14-25:Epub before print.

Suvak M, Brogan L, and Shipherd J. Predictors of Sexual Functioning in a Sample of U.S. Marines: An 11-Year Follow-Up Study. IJSH March 26, 2012;24(1):26-44:Epub before print.

Turchik J, Pavao J, Nazarian D, Iqbal S, McLean C, and Kimerling R. Sexually Transmitted Infections and Sexual Dysfunctions among Newly Returned Veterans with and without Military Sexual Trauma. IJSH March 26, 2012;24(1):45-59:Epub before print.

Sadler A, Mengeling M, Fraley S, Torner J, and Booth B. Correlates of Sexual Functioning in Women Veterans: Mental Health, Gynecologic Health, Health Status, and Sexual Assault History. IJSH March 26, 2012;24(1):60-77:Epub before print.

Shipherd J, Mizock L, Maguen S, and Green K. Male-to-Female Transgender Veterans and VA Health Care Utilization. IJSH March 26, 2012;24(1):78-87:Epub before print.

International Journal of Sexual Health April 2012;24(1):

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HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

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