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Burnout, Occupational Stress, and Sex

By Loret Haas-Hanser

Penis. Vagina. Sex. Orgasm. Perfect; now that we got our 7th grade chuckles out of the way, let’s talk about sex. Since the hippie movement in the 1960’s, sex, and actually talking about sex, has been increasingly more accepted in mainstream society. Discussing sexual content (and actually mentioning birth control rather than abstinence-only education) has been on the rise in the past few decades. Thankfully, this has allowed scientific research and sex to have a synergetic bond. Sex is necessary for reproduction. Even past that, though, sex can be a beautiful, intimate, pleasurable experience. Unfortunately, even though society is more accepting of informing and examining sexual behavior, America still has a ways to go in its sexual revolution. An immense amount of people are experiencing occupational burnout or stress, observable in over 40% of the American population. In turn, this impacts the gratification, satisfaction, and the most daunting of all: potential dysfunction received from sexual encounters.

The United States and other individualistic nations worldwide are enduring populations that are far more burnt-out and stressed than previous generations.

Figure 1. The Sexual Response Cycle, Worth Publishers Psychology

The term “burnout” was officially characterized by health-care professionals in 1974 as “a syndrome of psychological and physical exhaustion”. Stress and burnout impacts all areas of life- including sex. A recent study completed by Efstathios Papaefstathiou et al (2019). researched the correlation between burnout, occupational stress, and sexual dysfunction. The study followed 251 adults (143 males and 108 females). The participant’s medical history, professional data and demographics were calculated alongside reactions to Copenhagen Burnout Inventory. Additionally, the International Index of Erectile Function and the Female Sexual Function Index were used to measure levels of sexual function and gratification (Efstathios Papaefstathiou et al., 2019).

Taking multiple variables into account, the research study illuminated various breakthroughs. Firstly, burnout, hypertension and alcohol consumption all positively correlated to erectile dysfunction and caused decreased sexual satisfaction. For female participants, greater number of children and job satisfaction was related to increased arousal and better lubrication. Women also exemplified lower lubrication when job and personal stress were higher. In both gender groups, a higher score on the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory corresponded with sexual dysfunction and/or dissatisfaction (Efstathios Papaefstathiou et al.) For the purpose of this study, sexual dysfunction was defined as inability to orgasm, slower than average arousal, decreased excitement or interest in sex and increased time in between stages of Sexual Response Cycle (figure 1).

Although the findings of this study are fascinating and provide insight for people that may be experiencing burnout-related sexual dysfunction, the implications of this research are far more daunting. Sex is important, but it is also only one factor of life. Other aspects of life are significantly impacted by stress and burnout. Avoiding stress and attempting to not experience burnout is an almost impossible task. The key is to not necessarily avoid these anxiety-provoking instances, but to find coping mechanisms that allow you to take a break from that essay. Take ten minutes and take a stroll outside while the kids are asleep. Finish writing your taxes after you make a warm cup of tea. Sit and watch some mind-numbing television after you’ve been on the phone with tech-support because your computer won’t turn on. Find your inner peace, do not let the stress of life consume you.


Papaefstathiou, E., Apostolopoulou, A., Papaefstathiou, E., Moysidis, K., Hatzimouratidis, K., & Sarafis, P. (2019). The impact of burnout and occupational stress on sexual function in both male and female individuals: a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Impotence Research, 1.

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