A study of married couples in Turkey found that higher levels of depressive symptoms were linked to lower sexual satisfaction in both husbands and wives. Husbands with greater depressive symptoms tended to have wives with lower sexual satisfaction, but the reverse was not the case. The study was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.
Sexual satisfaction refers to one’s satisfaction with the sexual aspects of his or her intimate relationship. It is related to overall relationship satisfaction. This is particularly the case in committed relationships such as marriages. Sexual satisfaction helps build a strong bond between partners, reduce conflicts and increase intimacy. Sexual satisfaction was found to be linked with subjective well-being and life satisfaction.
However, it is also associated with mental health factors, particularly depression, anxiety and stress. Particularly in middle-aged and older couples, one’s depression was found to be linked to reduced sexual satisfaction of the partner. Studies have reported that people with low sexual satisfaction tend to more often have anxiety disorder.
Other studies have linked general anxiety symptoms with low sexual satisfaction in non-clinical populations. Additionally, high levels of daily stress were found to be linked to lower sexual activity and sexual satisfaction.
Study author Selin Karkose and her colleagues wanted to examine the associations between depression, anxiety, stress and sexual satisfaction in married couples. They were also interested in examining whether one’s sexual satisfaction is associated with one’s partner’s depression, anxiety and stress.
Study participants were 102 heterosexual married couples from Turkey. Age of wives ranged between 21 and 45 years (29 on average). Husbands were between 23 and 50 years old, with an average of 31 years. The average age of marriage was 27 for wives and 29 for husbands. On average, they were married for a bit over 2 years at the time of the study.
Participants completed a demographic questionnaire and assessments of depression, anxiety and stress levels (DASS-21), and of sexual satisfaction (the New Sexual Satisfaction Scale, NSSS).
Results showed that, in wives, higher levels of depression and anxiety were linked to lower levels of sexual satisfaction. Stress levels were not associated with sexual satisfaction in wives. In husbands, higher levels of depression and stress were associated with lower sexual satisfaction.
Anxiety of husbands was not associated with their sexual satisfaction. On average, wives reported higher levels of depression than husbands. There was no difference between averages of the two genders on anxiety, stress and sexual satisfaction.
Analyses of associations of these factors between partners revealed that higher depression levels of husbands were linked with lower sexual satisfaction levels of their wives. However, depression of wives was not associated with sexual satisfaction of their husbands. No such effects were found for either anxiety or stress.
When family income, marital duration and wife’s anxiety were controlled for, higher levels of sexual satisfaction became associated with lower levels of anxiety in husbands. The same was repeated with stress of husbands, when income, marital duration and wife’s stress were controlled. Higher levels of stress of wives were associated with lower levels of their sexual satisfaction when their income, marital duration and stress of husband were controlled for.
“The results partially supported the first hypothesis that one’s own depression, anxiety, and stress levels are associated with one’s own happiness with the sexual relationship,” the study authors concluded. “Specifically, negative associations emerged between husbands’ depression, anxiety, and stress levels and their own sexual satisfaction, meaning elevated levels of depression, anxiety, and stress were associated with lower levels of sexual satisfaction. For wives, negative links emerged between their depression and stress with their own sexual satisfaction.”
The study provides a valuable contribution to the study of sexual satisfaction of married couples. However, it should be noted that no participant had clinical levels of the studied symptoms. Additionally, most of the participants were newlyweds. Results might not be the same on couples who were together longer.
The study, “Depression, Anxiety, Stress, and Sexual Satisfaction in Couples”, was authored by Selin Karakose, Melani Urs, Jordan E. Marshall, and Thomas Ledermann.