• Minority Older Women;
  • Sexual Problems;
  • Inquiring about Sexual Issues


Introduction.  Clinicians are embarrassed about discussing sex with patients and do not know how to ask about sexual problems in a way that will optimize honest and open responses. Learning about inquiry responses and the prevalence of sexual problems among specific groups of women, including minority women, can help identify appropriate inquiry and management pathways.

Aim.  To better understand useful inquiry techniques as well as to describe the prevalence of sexual problems among a specific group of minority women aged 40–80 years.

Main Outcome Measures.  Responses to two styles of sexual problem inquiry, direct vs. ubiquity, were compared among sexually active subjects. Prevalence of sexual problems and interest in discussing problems with personal clinician were determined.

Methods.  Minority women aged 40–80 years receiving care at one of two Family Health Centers in Brooklyn, New York who could speak English met inclusion criteria. A cross-sectional survey of 212 subjects, the majority being Afro-Caribbean, identified those who were sexually active and then randomly asked about sexual problems using one of two inquiry types: (i) a direct question, such as “Do you have a problem during sex,” or (ii) a ubiquity-style question, such as “Many women with diabetes have sexual problems, how about you?” Sexual problems were characterized by recognized phases of female sexual activity. Interest in discussing sexual problems with a personal clinician was determined.

Results.  Of the 212 women surveyed, 108 (50.9%) were sexually active with 37 (34.3%) of these women responding “yes” when asked about sexual problems using one of the two inquiry techniques. Stratified analysis by age group showed significantly higher reporting of sexual problems when a ubiquity-style inquiry was used among older women aged 61–80 years (P = 0.028) but not among younger ones. The prevalence of sexual problems was 14.8% reporting pain, 12.0% lack of interest, 9.2% lack of excitation, 5.5% lack of orgasm, and 6.5%“other.” Forty-three percent of women with problems said they would like to discuss their problem(s) with their clinician.

Conclusions.  In a specific minority group of women aged 40 years and older, especially those over age 60 years, ubiquity-style inquiries may encourage more open and honest responses about sexual problems. The most common sexual problem among this group of women was pain. There is willingness and even interest in talking with clinicians about sexual issues. Recognition of sexual problem prevalences helps clarify the high number of women who could be potentially helped with current and future pharmacologic and psychosocial treatments. Sadovsky R, Alam W, Enecilla M, Cosiquien R, Tipu O, and Etheridge-Otey J. Sexual problems among a specific population of minority women aged 40–80 years attending a primary care practice. J Sex Med 2006;3:795–803.