Effects of Acute Change in Health Status on Human Female Sexuality

Author(s): Tiffany A. Alvarez and Peter B. Gray


Background. Life history theory suggests that organisms face allocation challenges between maintenance and reproduction. In the face of acute illness, organisms may prioritize investments in immune function to improve condition, but do so at some expense to sexuality. Objective. Here, we investigate the effects of acute illness on human female sexuality using a quasi-experimental design. Methods. Both when sick and two weeks later when recovered, thirty women (mean age = 23 y, SD = 1.4 y) completed a questionnaire assessing sociodemographic attributes, symptom severity, and several measures of sexuality. Results. While sick, women reported markedly lower sociosexuality scores in all but one of the four domains: receptivity (female reactions that denote a willingness to engage in copulation). During illness, symptom severity was unrelated to measures of sexuality. Partnering status did not interact with health status in predicting measures of sexuality. Conclusions. These findings show that acute changes in female health status impacted sexuality, consistent with expectations from life history theory. These findings contribute to larger theoretical and empirical discussions regarding context-specific variation in female sexuality.


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