Sexual dysfunction and decreased sexual health are common among people with COPD, yet health professionals rarely adress these issues due to a lack of knowledge within the topic. The aim of this study is to investigate the subjective experiences of COPD's impact on sexual health and intimacy. We will employ a mixed-methods approach, consisting of a cross-sectional survey of individuals with and without COPD, as well as inductive interviews with COPD patients and their partners.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common, progressive lung disease that affects millions of people worldwide, including approximately 400,000 individuals in Denmark alone. COPD often have a significant impact on physical, psychological, and social aspects of an individual's life, including their sexual health. Studies have shown that sexual dysfunction is freguent among people with COPD (up to 75%). Despite this high prevalence, sexual health and intimacy issues are often overlooked or neglected by healthcare professionals. This is caused by the taboo surrounding sexuality in healthcare, as well as the lack of knowledge and skills in addressing sexual health concerns.
The current body of evidence regarding the impact of COPD on sexual health is limited and potentially biased, as most studies have focused solely on investigating sexual dysfunction among male patients with COPD. This narrow approach fails to address the broader aspects of sexual health, which are influenced by various physical, psychological, and social factors. This may be particularly prevalent among patients with COPD, as a study indicate that sexual health is indirectly associated with COPD-specific symptoms, particularly fear of breathlessness on exertion and reduced functional ability. There is a lack of qualitative research exploring patients' subjective experiences of COPD's impact on sexual health and intimacy. The few available interview studies suggest that COPD alters intimate and sexual relationships, but more research is needed. A more comprehensive and hollistic understanding of the impact of COPD on sexual health, intimacy issues and support needs of people with COPD and their partners is crucial for promoting communication about intimacy issues, ultimately leading to improved sexual health and quality of life for people with COPD and their partners in Denmark.
In response, we have designed a mixed-methods study to investigate the multifaceted impact of COPD on sexual health and intimacy, and to identify ways to improve clinical communication about this sensitive topic.
We aim to investigate men and womens' subjective experiences of how COPD affects physical and psychosocial aspects of sexual health within a holistic approach.
Our assumptions are that:
- The prevalence of sexual dysfunction, sexual dissatisfaction and sexual distress are more
frequent among people with COPD than people without COPD
- COPD affects both physical, psychological and social aspects of sexual health. Impaired sexual health or intimacy issues is associated with increased loneliness and anxiety and/or depression, and with decreased health related quality of life and well-being.
Description of the cohort
Our qualitative study will include patients diagnosed with COPD from the Department of Medicine at Lillebaelt University Hospital in Vejle, Denmark.
In addition, we will recruite individuals both with and without COPD, to complete an open online questionnaire. Including a non-COPD control group will enable us to distinguish COPD-specific outcomes from general health effects.