Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 3–14 | Cite as

Sexual and Body Esteem in People with Spinal Cord Damage

  • Peter W. NewEmail author
Original Paper


Sexual esteem is the positive regard for and confidence in an individual’s capacity to experience their sexuality in a satisfying and enjoyable way. Body esteem is the overall positive or negative evaluation of one’s body. Physical disability can have an adverse impact on both of these constructs. This project aimed to study the sexual esteem and body esteem in people with spinal cord damage (SCD). A comprehensive survey (August 2013–June 2014) was conducted of people with SCD (n = 154) living in the community, Australia. The survey included the Physical Disability Sexual and Body Esteem (PDSBE) scale. There were 146 participants who completed the PDSBE scale. Most were male (n = 100, 68.5%), average age of 47.9 years (SD = 13.5) and a median of 11 years (IQR 4–20) post SCD. The mean PDSBE score was 22.2 (SD = 7.9). There was a moderate correlation (r = 0.35) between the total PDSBE score and quality of life as a whole (P = .001) and a weak correlation (r = 0.22) with function (P = 0.01). There was no significant influence of gender or sexual orientation on PDSBE scores. However, people with non-traumatic SCD and paraplegia tended to have higher scores (non-traumatic SCD mean 25.8 [SD = 6.7] vs traumatic SCD mean 21.0 [SD = 8.0], P = .002; paraplegia mean 23.4 [8.1] vs tetraplegia mean 20.6 [7.5], P = 0.04). The mean PDSBE scores for the people with SCD in this study were lower than that reported for non-SCD disabled (mean 25.9, SD = 9.2). Sexual and body esteem are psychological-sexual constructs that complement existing outcomes used when evaluating the impact of SCD.


Australia Rehabilitation Sexuality Spinal cord diseases Self-report Self concept Sexual behavior 



Dr. Kim Proudlove (nee Currie, Caulfield Hospital, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Australia), Vanessa Hamilton (previously Sexual Health Nurse Consultant, Austin Health, Melbourne, Australia) and the following people with SCD provided comments and suggestions regarding the survey questions: Lynne Panayiotis, Georgina Fiorentino, Mark Hanson, Mike Short, and two others who wished to remain anonymous. Merilyn Seddon (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia) and the following organizations are thanked for their assistance with distribution of the survey to potential participants: AQA (Victoria), Spinal Injuries Association (Queensland), Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (New South Wales), Paraplegic-Quadriplegic Association of WA, ParaQuad NSW, Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of South Australia, Spinal Cord Injury Network (Australia). The author would especially like to thank all the participants who completed the survey.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethics standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was implied by the participants completing the study questionnaire after they read the participant information and consent document.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Spinal Rehabilitation ServiceCaulfield Hospital, Alfred HealthMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Epworth-Monash Rehabilitation Medicine UnitMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health & Preventive MedicineMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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