Clinician Article

Sexual functioning and obesity: a review.

  • Kolotkin RL
  • Zunker C
  • Ostbye T
Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Dec;20(12):2325-33. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.104. Epub 2012 Apr 23. (Review)
PMID: 22522887
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  • Endocrine
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7
  • Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP)
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7
  • General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7
  • Special Interest - Obesity -- Physician
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Public Health
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7


We review the literature on the relationship between obesity and sexual functioning. Eleven population-based studies, 20 cross-sectional non-population-based studies, and 16 weight loss studies are reviewed. The consistency of findings suggests that the relationship between obesity and reduced sexual functioning is robust, despite diverse methods, instruments, and settings. In most population-based studies, erectile dysfunction (ED) is more common among obese men than among men of recommended weight. Studies of patients in clinical settings often include individuals with higher degrees of obesity, with most studies showing a relationship between obesity and lower levels of sexual functioning, especially ED. The few studies that include both genders generally report more problems among women. Most studies of patients with comorbidities associated with obesity also find an association between obesity and reduced sexual functioning. Most weight loss studies demonstrate improvement in sexual functioning concurrent with weight reduction despite varying study designs, weight loss methods, and follow-up periods. We recommend that future studies (i) investigate differences and similarities between men and women with respect to obesity and sexual functioning, (ii) use instruments that go beyond the assessment of sexual dysfunction to include additional concepts such as sexual satisfaction, interest, and arousal and, (iii) assess how and the degree to which obese individuals are affected by sexual difficulties. Given the high prevalence of obesity and the inverse association between body mass and sexual functioning, we also recommend that sexual functioning should be more fully addressed by clinicians, both in general practice and in weight loss programs.

Clinical Comments

General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)

Provides a useful review of the literature, including limitations to the consistent findings, on a topic of day-to-day relevance to many primary care providers. The ability to cite evidence may make patient interactions on the topic easier.

Public Health

Great review of literature. However, the studies will show contradictory results relating obesity to sexual function. My response is simple. This information would be better handled by other professionals. The normal day is already too full to be able to deal with this aspect. On the other hand, the issue of obesity is important to address and that may be answer (indirectly) to the aspect of sexual functioning. As clinicians, we deal with obesity issues frequently related to chronic diseases and a side effect may be the treatment of sexual functioning.

Special Interest - Obesity -- Physician

Obesity is an important risk factor for the critical aspects of our health, lifespan and quality of life. Also for the sustainability of the human race and of our planet Earth.

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