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Sexual Function in F-111 Maintenance Workers: The Study of Health Outcomes in Aircraft Maintenance Personnel


Meredith Tavener, Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing, Level 2, David Maddison Building, The University of Newcastle, NSW 2308, Australia. Tel: +61 2 49138325; Fax: +61 2 49138323; E-mail:


Introduction.  In Australia, four formal F-111 fuel tank deseal/reseal (DSRS) repair programs were implemented over more than two decades, each involving different processes and using a range of hazardous substances. However, health concerns were raised by a number of workers. The “Study of Health Outcomes in Aircraft Maintenance Personnel” was commissioned by the Australian Department of Defence to investigate potential adverse health outcomes as a result of being involved in the deseal/reseal processes.

Aim.  To compare measures of sexual function in F-111 aircraft fuel tank DSRS maintenance workers, against two appropriate comparison groups.

Methods.  Exposed and comparison participants completed a postal questionnaire which included general questions of health and health behavior, and two specific questions on sexual functioning. They also completed the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) questionnaire. Logistic regression was used to explore exposure status and outcome while adjusting for potential confounders.

Main Outcome Measures.  The three outcomes of interest for this study were the proportion of participants with erectile dysfunction (ED) according to the IIEF, the proportion with self-reported loss of interest in sex, and the proportion with self-reported problems with sexual functioning.

Results.  Compared with each of the comparison groups, a larger proportion of the exposed group reported sexual problems and were classified as having ED according to the IIEF. In logistic regression, the odds of all three outcomes were higher for exposed participants relative to each comparison group and after adjustment for potentially confounding variables including anxiety and depression.

Conclusions.  There was a consistent problem with sexual functioning in the exposed group that is not explained by anxiety and depression, and it appears related to DSRS activities. Brown A, Gibson R, Tavener M, Guest M, D'Este C, Byles J, Attia J, Horsley K, Harrex W, and Ross J. Sexual function in F-111 maintenance workers: The study of health outcomes in aircraft maintenance personnel. J Sex Med 2009;6:1569–1578.