Sexual Health and Flourishing Negatively Impacted by Economic Constraints

photo of two people kissing in front of a blue sky. photo by Shingi Rice

New research by CORE investigators documents that poverty and other financial constraints undermine people’s ability to have positive sexual experiences.

All major public health organizations in the United States underscore that sexual health involves both the absence of negative outcomes (such as unwanted pregnancies and STIs), and the presence of sexual flourishing, including a pleasurable and satisfying sex life.

CORE researchers examined how these positive aspects of sexual health may be affected by by socioconomic conditions. Their research brief, just published online in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, shares findings from a study of over 2,500 people of reproductive age seeking family planning services. The project was a collaboration between researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (UW CORE) and the University of Utah, using data from the HER Salt Lake Initiative. 

Researchers collected information on people’s financial resources (for example, whether they had trouble paying for basic needs in the past month) as well as indicators of sexual flourishing (for example, sexual satisfaction and orgasm).

Nearly universally, those who reported experiencing more financial constraints also reported fewer signs of sexual flourishing. Results from this analysis suggest that economics are strongly associated with sexual wellbeing, with indications that financial scarcity may reduce sexual satisfaction, orgasm, and overall functioning. These results remind us that structural constraints affect sexual bodies.

A reproductive justice framework indicates that all people must have access to the social conditions needed for healthy and autonomous reproductive and sexual lives. 

To address inequities in sexual health, public health leaders and policymakers must continue to support economic reform and poverty reduction.

Read the open-access article here: