TUESDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity is tied to reduced
sexual activity and poorer sexual health, according to new research
The rate of unplanned pregnancy among obese women is four times
that of normal-weight women, despite the former having fewer
partners, the report found.
For men, being obese greatly raised the odds for impotence and
their risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
"Being obese has a strong influence on people's sexual life," said lead researcher Nathalie Bajos, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and research director at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, in Paris.
She believes obesity affects the sex lives of women particularly
"Because of social pressure or social stigmatization, obese women are less likely to engage in sexual intercourse and more likely to find sexual partners via the Internet," Bajos said. "Because of their obesity, they are not comfortable meeting men through friends, through work, through parties," she reasoned.
Obese women are also more likely than thinner women to be in a
relationship with a partner who is also obese or overweight, Bajos
A lot of these problems are driven by the stigmatization of
obese women, she said, and "these women are more likely to have low
The report is published in the June 16 online edition of the
For the study, Bajos and colleagues collected data on the sexual
behavior of more than 12,000 French men and women. Among this
group, 3,651 women and 2,725 men were normal weight, 1,010 women
and 1,488 men were overweight, and 411 women and 350 men were
Putting on excess pounds did take a toll on sex lives, the study
Compared with normal-weight women and men, obese women were 30
percent less likely to have had a sex partner in the past year,
while obese men were 70 percent less likely to have had more than
one sex partner over the same time, the researchers found.
Obese men were also 2.5 times more likely to experience erectile
dysfunction than normal-weight men, and obese men under 30 were
more likely to have had a sexually transmitted disease, the
Obese women under 30 often didn't seek contraceptive advice or
use oral contraceptives, and were more likely to have an unintended
pregnancy, the researchers found, and they were also less likely to
visit a gynecologist, Bajos said. Due to being overweight, "they do
not [always] feel comfortable seeing a gynecologist for
contraception issues," she said.
In addition, gynecologists and general practitioners are less
likely to prescribe contraception to obese women, Bajos noted. "It
could be that they believe these women are less likely to have a
sexual life," she said.
The study also found that obese women were five times more
likely to meet sex partners on the Internet and more likely to
watch pornography. Yet they were less likely to view sex as
important in their lives, Bajos said.
Dr. Sandy Goldbeck-Wood is associate specialist in psychosexual
medicine at Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust in the U.K.,
and author of an accompanying editorial. She said that "the
differing sexual experiences of obese and non-obese people need
"We need to understand more about how obese people feel about their sex lives, and what drives the observed behaviors and attitudes. In particular, we need to know why obese women use less contraception and have more unwanted pregnancies despite having fewer sexual partners," Goldbeck-Wood said. "The answers are likely to be complex, with biological, psychological and social aspects that will require a qualitative research approach," she added.
Doctors must also develop the courage, skill and sensitivity to
speak to patients directly about their sex lives and their weight,
Goldbeck-Wood noted. "Doctors in primary care and sexual and
reproductive health need to pay particular attention to the complex
contraceptive needs of obese women," she suggested.
Dr. Robert Schwartz, professor and chairman of family medicine
at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine agreed that,
right now, "a lot of physicians don't pay much attention to obese
His advice to doctors: "Don't make the assumption that your
obese patients are not as sexually active as the rest of the
population, and they need to be counseled appropriately."
For more information on obesity, visit the
National Institutes of Health.