A new study suggests that in addition to the health benefits, bariatric surgery can improve a patient’s sexual life. What’s more, this improvement is often lasting.
After tracking the impact of bariatric surgery on around 2,000 patients’ sexual life, the surveyors found that about half reported a significant improvement to their overall sexual experience within five years after the surgery.
“We evaluated four aspects of sexual function in this study – frequency of desire, frequency of activity, degree of physical health limitation to activities, and satisfaction with sex life,” explained research author Kristine Steffen.
After comparing pre-surgery reports with post-surgery experiences, she and her colleagues concluded that “improvements in sexual satisfaction were generally sustained for over five years for women and men after surgery”.
The average age of the study participants was 47 years old and most were female. At some point between 2005 and 2009, all underwent first-time bariatric surgery – most commonly Roux-en-Y gastric bypass – at one of 10 different hospitals across the US.
Beforehand, all patients were severely obese with an average Body Mass Index (BMI) close to 46. BMI is a measure based on weight and height (e.g., someone 6 feet tall weighing 339 pounds would have a BMI of 46).
The surveyors did not ask whether poor sexual life was a primary motivation for wanting to undergo the surgery. However, the team noted that around 70% of females and 74% of males reported being unsatisfied with their sex lives before surgery. Approximately 60% of females and 67% of males also specifically reported physical limitations prior to sex activity.
One year after surgery, roughly 92% of those who had participated were subsequently asked about their sexual functions during the past month. Of those who had reported dissatisfaction prior to surgery, 56% of females and 49% of males said things had improved.
Inversely, around 1,400 patients were followed up for four more years after that point. As Steffen pointed out at that stage “improvement was still seen in most domains for women compared with year one; indicating not all patients experienced all improvements immediately postoperatively”.
Even so, Steffen added that by year five “a third [of females] still reported improved libido and overall frequency from sex activity compared with preoperatively” . Five years on over half still said there was limited physical health in sex activity as well as over half saying they were more satisfied with sex life .
As for males , Steffen said most continued reporting sustained improvements in every aspect over five years aside from physical health limitations . Nevertheless , 68 % said this gender limit wasn’t so much an issue five years later .
Steffen highlighted that reductions in depressive symptoms seemed linked to improvements in male and female sexual functions . However , the team did not evaluate potential impacts from erectile dysfunction so it remains unclear what role this factor may play .