The Association Between Sexual Functioning and Suicide Risk in U.S. Military Veteran Couples Seeking Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


U.S. military, Sexual functioning, PTSD, Suicide risk, Relationship functioning


Intimate relationship distress has been identified as one of the most common precipitants of suicidal thoughts for U.S. military populations. Sexual functioning is associated with relationship distress and has recently been identified as a predictor of suicidal ideation with female military personnel; however, no studies have examined this association among a treatment-seeking sample of male and female veterans and their partners. Couples (N = 138) completed baseline assessments of sexual functioning, relationship functioning, suicidal ideation, and mental health prior to evaluation for engagement in a couples-based PTSD treatment study. Analyses revealed that decreased sexual pleasure and decreased frequency of sexual intercourse were associated with more recent suicidal ideation for male veterans, whereas increased sexual frequency was marginally associated with increased suicidal ideation for female veterans, controlling for PTSD and depression symptoms, relationship satisfaction, and medications. These findings stress the importance of assessing sexual functioning as a risk factor for suicide and taking into consideration the possibility that sexual functioning may be protective or predictive of suicidality depending on the person and context.

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