INTRODUCTION: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted profoundly on the wellbeing and social interactions of the world population, and all dimensions of sexual health were potentially affected by globally implemented preventive measures.
OBJECTIVES: The scoping review aimed to compile existing research investigating possible effects of COVID-19 lockdowns on adult sexual health, that is, sexual behavior, functioning, and satisfaction. Further, studies on the interplay between mental health and sexual well-being during the pandemic were reviewed.
METHODS: The review was conducted in accordance with guidelines established by the Joanna Briggs Institute and the Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) Checklist. On October 11-12, 2021, PubMed, Embase, PsycInfo, Cinahl, Cochrane, Sociological Abstracts and Scopus were systematically searched for relevant peer-reviewed papers employing quantitative methodology. Additionally, unpublished ("grey") research studies on the subject were retrieved. The screening, data extraction, and analysis of evidence were conducted by 4 independent reviewers using an iterative approach.
RESULTS: Based on 107 studies included, the scoping review showed that the pandemic had had a wide impact on all dimensions of sexual health. Except for solo sex activities, mainly negative COVID-19 implications were identified, although findings were, in sum, characterized by complexity and unpredictability. Thus, sexual behavior, functioning, and satisfaction during the pandemic appeared to be mitigated by a broad range of sociodemographic and contextual factors. Finally, sexual health seemed deeply entwined with overall mental health.
CONCLUSION: The scoping review revealed a broad range of COVID-19-related effects on sexual health, including an overall decline in partnered sex and a concurrent increase in solo sex activities. It also emphasized a need for future research to shed light on possible long-term consequences of the pandemic in various population groups and on all aspects of sexual health.