CHICAGO (AP) -- If you think you have sexual problems, you're not alone.
One the most comprehensive surveys in the United States in decades found that sexual dysfunction afflicts 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men, with problems that include a lack of interest in sex and the inability to have an orgasm.
"I think it gives us a base for explaining why we had this enormous response to Viagra," said Dr. Edward Laumann, a University of Chicago sociologist and the lead author of the study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
And as grim as the findings are, the survey could offer hope to millions, many of whom think they're the only ones having trouble in bed, Laumann said.
"Often they don't even admit it to their partners. It's the old `I've got a headache' instead of `I don't feel like having sex,"' he said.
The researchers said problems with sex are often coupled with everything from emotional and health problems to lack of time, job pressures and money trouble. But they said they aren't sure which comes first -- stress or problems with sex.
The researchers based the findings on the 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey, a compilation of interviews with 1,749 women and 1,410 men.
The participants, ages 18 to 59, were asked if they had experienced sexual dysfunction over several months in the previous year. Sexual dysfunction was defined as a regular lack of interest in or pain during sex or persistent problems achieving lubrication, an erection or orgasm.
Lack of interest in sex was the most common problem for women, with about a third saying they regularly didn't want sex. Twenty-six percent said they regularly didn't have orgasms and 23 percent said sex wasn't pleasurable.
About a third of men said they had persistent problems with climaxing too early, while 14 percent said they had no interest in sex and 8 percent said they consistently derived no pleasure from sex.
Overall, 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men said they had one or more persistent problems with sex. Researchers had expected the overall numbers to be closer to maybe 20 percent for each sex.
Researchers said those in the survey who experienced sexual dysfunction often were more likely to be unhappy and more likely to describe their satisfaction with the partnership as unsatisfactory, Laumann said.
Dr. Domeena Renshaw, a Chicago-area sex therapist, said the results are not surprising, considering the long list of couples waiting to get into the sexual dysfunction clinic she has run at the Loyola University Medical Center since 1972.
In that time, she has treated nearly 140 couples who had never consummated their marriages, including a couple who had been wed for 23 years.
Study author Raymond Rosen, co-director of the Center for Sexual and Marital Health at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., said the survey provides much-needed information about women, who have often been excluded from studies about sexual performance.
He said the findings are the most reliable since Dr. Alfred Kinsey did his landmark studies in 1948. Kinsey got similar results regarding impotence and failure to achieve orgasm but didn't ask about lack of sexual desire.
Too often, Rosen said, Americans have gotten their information about sex from magazines bought at the grocery-store checkout.
"As a scientist, it makes my hair stand on end," Rosen said. "It's terrible."