Sexual dysfunction is associated with suicidal ideation in female service members and veterans

Rebecca K. Blais, Lindsey L. Monteith, Jordan Kugler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background Suicide is a leading cause of premature death among military service members/veterans (SM/Vs). The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (Joiner, 2007) proposes that higher thwarted belonging, perceived burdensomeness, and acquired capability confer increased risk for suicide. However, no studies have examined the association of sexual dysfunction, a possible component of thwarted belonging and perceived burdensomeness, with suicidal ideation. The present study explored whether sexual dysfunction was associated with suicidal ideation when accounting for mental health, demographic, and military characteristics among female SM/Vs. Method Female SM/Vs (n = 710) completed an anonymous online survey assessing demographics, mental health, military characteristics, sexual dysfunction, and suicidal ideation. Results One hundred fifty-nine participants (22.39%) reported suicidal ideation during the preceding two weeks. A multivariable ordinal regression adjusted for age, marital status, probable posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), probable depression, race/ethnicity, Army service, and deployment history. Lower sexual functioning (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.98, 95% confidence interval[CI] = 0.95–0.99), probable PTSD (AOR = 2.54, 95% CI = 1.61–4.01), and probable depression (AOR = 5.28, 95% CI = 3.34–8.34) were associated with suicidal ideation. Post-hoc analyses examined the association of suicidal ideation with specific components of sexual functioning: difficulties with sexual arousal (AOR = 0.87, 95% CI = 0.79–0.97) and sexual satisfaction (AOR = 0.85, 95% CI = 0.75–0.96) were associated with suicidal ideation. Limitations Data were cross-sectional and limited to self-report. Discussion Sexual dysfunction is associated with suicidal ideation, accounting for established mental health, military, and demographic characteristics among female SM/Vs. Efforts to prevent suicidal ideation in female SM/Vs may be enhanced by screening for and treating sexual dysfunction, particularly sexual arousal and satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-57
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 15 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Females
  • Military
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Suicide
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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