Development and Validation of a Single-Item Screener for Self-Reporting Sexual Problems in U.S. Adults

Kathryn E. Flynn, Stacy Tessler Lindau, Li Lin, Jennifer Barsky Reese, Diana D. Jeffery, Jeanne Carter, Shirley R. Baron, Emily Abramsohn, Kevin P. Weinfurt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Brief self-assessment of sexual problems in a clinical context has the potential to improve care for patients through the ability to track trends in sexual problems over time and facilitate patient–provider communication about this important topic. However, instruments designed for research are typically too long to be practical in clinical practice. Objective: To develop and validate a single-item self-report clinical screener that would capture common sexual problems and concerns for men and women. Design: We created three candidate screener items, refined them through cognitive interviews, and administered them to a large sample. We compared the prevalence of responses to each item and explored the discrepancies between items. We evaluated the construct validity of the items by comparing them to scores on the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System® Sexual Function and Satisfaction (PROMIS® SexFS) measure. Participants: Local patients participated in two rounds of cognitive interviews (n = 7 and n = 11). A probability-based random sample of U.S. adults comprised the item-testing sample (n = 3517). Main Measures: The items were as follows: 1) a yes/no item on any sexual problems or concerns (“general screener”), 2) a yes/no item on problems experienced for 3 months or more during the past 12 months, with a list of examples (“long list screener”), and 3) an item identical to the long list screener except that examples appeared individually as response options and respondents could check all that applied (“checklist screener”). Key Results: All of the screeners tested showed evidence for basic validity and had minimal missing data. Percentages of women and men endorsing the screeners were 10 % and 15 % (general); 20 % and 17 % (long list); and 38 % and 30 % (checklist), respectively. Participants who endorsed the screeners had lower function compared to those who did not endorse them. Conclusions: We recommend the checklist screener for its specificity and ability to identify specific problems associated with decreased sexual function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1468-1475
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 29 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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