Maternal health experts have said the unprecedented economic hardship that has left millions of Nigerians struggling to make ends meet could cause low sex drive (low libido) among couples.
Libido refers to sexual desire and the emotion and mental energy relating to sex.
According to a relationship health application, Blueheart, finances could affect an individual’s stress levels, consequently affecting the libido. It further noted that stress and libido were intricately linked.
Nigeria’s economy has been experiencing a downward slide following the high inflation rate and naira depreciation.
On Wednesday, the National Bureau of Statistics reported that Nigeria’s inflation rate surged to 27.33 per cent in October, reflecting a 0.61 per cent rise from the 26.72 per cent recorded in September.
The International Monetary Fund and a global audit, tax and advisory services company, KPMG, downgraded the country’s economic growth, stating that inflation would slow economic growth and predicting a 30 per cent inflation rate by December.
PUNCH Healthwise reports that since the increase in prices of goods and services following the fuel subsidy removal, rising inflation and naira depreciation, the quality of life and nutrition of many Nigerians have been affected.
Speaking with PUNCH Healthwise, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto State, Abubakar Abubakar, stated that low libido was a decrease in sexual desire and was common but could be temporary or for a long time.
The gynaecologist further noted that libido varied from individuals, could fluctuate throughout life and could be caused by other factors, including diseases, lifestyle changes, medications, hormonal changes, unresolved relationship issues, traumatic sexual experiences and past surgeries like mastectomy.
Abubakar explained, “Libido is complex and is influenced by a lot of other factors such as physical, social, biological and psychological causes. Economic hardship, which belongs to the psychological and social factors, can lead to decreased drive in anyone and can cause relationship problems among partners.
“But the economic hardship also depends on the individuals. For those who are affluent, no matter the hardship, they are not affected and it did not have any effect on them. But for the common men and the middle class, the fuel subsidy removal, exchange rate and inflation have taken a downturn on the day-to-day life activity.”
The gynaecologist, however, said that for some couples who were average earners and workaholics, the situation might have forced them to stay at home more and concentrate on the relationship.
Abubakar further noted that economic hardship can lead to financial stress, which also impacts stress levels and libido.
“Stress and libido are intricately linked because financial stress can affect a man by adversely impacting his sleep, self-esteem and energy levels. It can lead some men to be ashamed, fearful or angry and this may cause some tensions and arguments among couples.
“So when the relationship is already affected, you cannot be talking of libido because sex is a two-way traffic even if the man does not have the desire and the woman has the desire and there is a problem in the relationship, the ego will step in and there will be no encounter. It is no secret that the problem of money can be a huge source of relationship fights.
“Most surveys report money as the biggest source of stress in relationships. Economic hardship will lead to decreased libido because money is widely known as the leading cause of divorce.
“After all, financial problem constitutes 20-30 per cent of all divorces. Stress and exhaustion can reduce one’s sex drive by taking one’s mind off sexual desire because other things are occupying your mind. Sex needs a lot of concentration and once there is anything that takes away that concentration, it reduces the sex drive,” the don said.
To back up Abubakar’s statement, a 2023 study by David Allosp et al, on the perceived link between financial burden and sexual well-being among couples, discovered that an individual’s perceived financial burden predicted their low sexual satisfaction, desire and distress, consequently, their partner’s lower sexual satisfaction.
On how couples could cope with the situation and still maintain their sexual drive, the fertility specialist stated that sex was both physical and emotional, therefore couples needed to dissociate their minds from the environmental factors during sexual encounters.
He educated couples on the need for lifestyle changes and healthy living.
The don also noted that some medications, such as anti-depressants reduced sex drive, adding that alcohol consumption reduced libido.
“Couples must be truthful to one another and go back to the drawing board as a family and reassess their expenses, face the reality of what is in the family and begin to cut down on expenses.
“ Couples need to do away with things that can cause stress because stress affects both men’s and women’s sex drive.
“Partners must communicate with themselves, sit down and plan their income and expenses and strategise on how to cope. Partners understand each other and do not put stress on each other,” Abubakar said.
The doctor further advised couples to seek professional counselling to address other underlying issues of low sex drive.
Also, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of Uyo, Akwa-Ibom, Aniekan Abasiattai, stated that economic challenges, which could act as a stressor could contribute to low sexual desire, particularly in women.
He, however, noted that other causes of low libido must have been investigated before a conclusion was made on economic challenges being the culprit.
The gynaecologist said, “Sexuality, particularly female sexualities, is quite complex. The signals that control significant aspects of female sexuality or female sexual drive arise from the central nervous system.
“Any factor that influences the way signals are generated and sent to the sexual centres and other parts of the female genital tracts, about sexual arousal and desire, can be influenced by factors that influence the generation of those signals such as anxiety, depression, factors that surrounds relationships and work stresses.”
The researcher on Community Obstetrics, Fetomaternal Medicine, and Reproductive Health, further noted that certain bodily diseases, medications and surgeries could lead to a reduction in sexual drive.
Abasiattai also stated unlike men, women’s sexuality was more complex, “a woman has to be in the right frame of mind and it starts from the brain.
For a woman to have the desire to have sex, there has to be an enabling desire and mood. The physiological process needs to be apt and the central nervous system has a larger role to play.
“So it is possible but before you conclude, you have to confirm that it (economic hardship) is coming there. For example, if a woman has had sexual assault, which is increasingly common, in her formative years, she could also have a loss of libido.
“There are a lot of factors, if she is on certain medications, it could reduce her sexual drive and no one may know that it is coming from there. So it needs to be evaluated properly for that diagnosis to be made.”
The don also that in most marital relationships, sexual intercourse was necessary to achieve stability, adding that sexual abstinence among couples was a significant cause of marital disharmony.
Abasiattai advised couples to seek professional evaluation, and “if such a diagnosis is made, they would refer you to an appropriate counselling body with specific reference to the initiating factor of the low sex drive.”
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