Predictors of Sexual Desire Disorders in Women


Lori A. Brotto, PhD, Obstetrics/Gynaecology, University of British Columbia, 2775 Laurel Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z1M9, Canada. Tel: (604) 875-4111 x68898; Fax: 604-875-4869; E-mail:


Introduction.  A historic belief was that testosterone was the “hormone of desire.” However, recent data, which show either minimal or no significant correlation between testosterone levels and women's sexual desire, suggest that nonhormonal variables may play a key role.

Aim.  To compare women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) and those with the recently proposed more symptomatic desire disorder, Sexual Desire/Interest Disorder (SDID), on the relative contribution of hormonal vs. nonhormonal variables.

Methods.  Women with HSDD (N = 58, mean age 52.5) or SDID (N = 52, mean age 50.9) participated in a biopsychosocial assessment in which six nonhormonal domains were evaluated for the degree of involvement in the current low desire complaints. Participants provided a serum sample of hormones analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry or liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry.

Main Outcome Measures.  Logistic regression was used to assess the ability of variables (nonhormonal: history of sexual abuse, developmental history, psychosexual history, psychiatric status, medical history, and sexual/relationship-related factors; hormonal: dehydroepiandrosterone [DHEA], 5-diol, 4-dione, testosterone, 5-α-dihydrotestosterone, androsterone glucuronide, 3α-diol-3G, 3α-diol-17G, and DHEA-S; and demographic: age, relationship length) to predict group membership.

Results.  Women with SDID had significantly lower sexual desire and arousal scores, but the groups did not differ on relationship satisfaction or mood. Addition of the hormonal variables to the two demographic variables (age, relationship length) did not significantly increase predictive capability. However, the addition of the six nonhormonal variables to these two sets of predictors significantly increased ability to predict group status. Developmental history, psychiatric history, and psychosexual history added significantly to the predictive capability provided by the basic model when examined individually.

Conclusions.  Nonhormonal variables added significant predictive capability to the basic model, highlighting the importance of their assessment clinically where women commonly have SDID in addition to HSDD, and emphasizing the importance of addressing psychological factors in treatment. Brotto LA, Petkau AJ, Labrie F, and Basson R. Predictors of sexual desire disorders in women. J Sex Med 2011;8:742–753.