A rapid review of sexual wellbeing definitions and measures: should we now include sexual wellbeing freedom?

Karen Lorimer, Leyla DeAmicis, Jenny Dalrymple, Jamie Frankis, Louise J. Jackson, Paula Lorgelly, Lesley McMillan, Jonathan Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
282 Downloads (Pure)


An increasing number of studies refer to sexual wellbeing and/or seek to measure it, and the term appears across various policy documents, including sexual health frameworks in the UK. We conducted a rapid review to determine how sexual wellbeing has been defined, qualitatively explored and quantitatively measured. Eligible studies selected for inclusion from OVID Medline, PsychInfo, PubMed, Embase, CINAHL were: in English language, published after 2007, were peer-reviewed full articles, focused on sexual wellbeing (or proxies for, e.g. satisfaction, function), and quantitatively or qualitatively assessed sexual wellbeing. We included studies with participants aged 16-65. Given study heterogeneity, our synthesis and findings are reported using a narrative approach. We identified 162 papers, of which 10 offered a definition of sexual wellbeing. Drawing upon a socio-ecological model, we categorised the 59 dimensions we identified from studies under three main domains: cognitive-affect (31 dimensions); inter-personal (22 dimensions); and socio-cultural (6 dimensions). Only 11 papers were categorised under the socio-cultural domain, commonly focusing on gender inequalities or stigma. We discuss the importance of conceptualising sexual wellbeing as individually experienced but socially and structurally influenced, including assessing sexual wellbeing freedom: a person’s freedom to achieve sexual wellbeing, or their real opportunities and liberties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)843-853
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Issue number7
Early online date23 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2019


  • review
  • sexual wellbeing
  • sexual violence
  • sociological theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Gender Studies
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Sociology and Political Science


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