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Approved Research

Integrated paradigms to understand sexual health.

Principal Investigator: Professor Huachun Zou
Approved Research ID: 90245
Approval date: July 8th 2022

Lay summary

Sexual health, including physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality, is of critical importance to human's holistic well-being. Globally, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise, afflicting high disease burdens. STIs are caused by a wide variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are transmitted from one person to another primarily by vaginal, anal, or oral sex and other intimate sexual contacts. Acquisition of STIs is associated with risky sexual behaviors and may be due to underlying genetic variations, which are often interlinked with the social environment. Sexual dysfunction and infirmity are prevalent, the etiology of which can be profoundly complex. Studies are warranted to explore the underlying cause to attain evidence and to facilitate the fulfillment of sexual and reproductive health needs. Also, sexual violence can be traumatic events that affect victims both physically and mentally. Optimizing the well-being of those suffered from sexual violence is of great concern. The scope of sexual health also involves sexual orientation and gender identity. It is essential to assess and improve the quality of life among sexual minorities. The main aim of this project is to improve our understanding of risk factors and their complex interactions and synergistic effects on different sexual health conditions (e.g. STIs, sexual dysfunction, sexual violence). We will then uncover whether there is a causal relationship between aforementioned risk factors and various sexual health outcomes. Meanwhile, we will assess the relationship between chronic non-communicable diseases (e.g. cancer and cardiovascular disease) and different levels of sexual well-being. With particular interest to health status of sexual minorities, we will use the UK Biobank longitudinal data to track heath events of sexual minorities. Multi-disciplinary analytical methods such as machine learning and Mendelian randomization analysis will be applied. This study will provide evidence on factors associated with sexual health, extending to the prevention of sexual health conditions and related long-term outcomes. Findings will inform better understanding of sexual health in populations in the UK and beyond.