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Sex and intimacy in people with severe asthma: a qualitative study
  1. Leanne Jo Holmes1,
  2. Janelle A Yorke2,
  3. Caroline Dutton1,
  4. Stephen J Fowler1,3 and
  5. Dorothy Ryan4
  1. 1 Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK
  2. 2 Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  3. 3 Division of Infection, Immunity and Respiratory Medicine, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Manchester and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK
  4. 4 Respiratory Medicine, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Leanne Jo Holmes; Leannejo.holmes{at}


Introduction People with severe asthma experience unpredictable daily symptoms requiring an intense treatment regimen impacting on health-related quality of life (QoL). Sexuality contributes to this, yet there is a dearth of research exploring intimacy in people with severe asthma. We aimed to explore the patient’s perception of the impact of severe asthma on intimacy, establish their information needs and their perceived role of the healthcare practitioner.

Methods We have performed a qualitative study guided by Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. We interviewed patients diagnosed with severe asthma recruited from a dedicated clinic using purposive sampling. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Using thematic analysis, the data were analysed for emergent themes.

Results The nine interviews provided unique and detailed insights into their perspectives on how living with severe asthma impinges on sexual intimacy. Four superordinate themes emerged: (1) ‘Physical intimacy’: including disclosure of physical limitations of severe asthma on intimacy; (2) ‘Emotional intimacy’: the cyclical impact of the often-negative emotional struggle of living with severe asthma on relationships; (3) ‘The role of the healthcare professional’: a perceived failure of healthcare professionals (HCPs) to tackle sexual intimacy in consultations and (4) ‘Image of self’: the reported struggle to deal with negative body image and confusion regarding changing relationship roles.

Discussion This study is the first to explore the impact of severe asthma on intimacy. We suggest an emphasis on education to raise awareness and help HCPs to address this sensitive topic in this cohort and adopt positive strategies to help improve QoL.

  • Asthma
  • psychology

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  • Contributors All authors within the paper meet the criteria of authorship as laid out by BMJ. I provide full assurances that there are no other individuals who have been contributors that are not recognised.

  • Funding The study was undertaken as part of a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) sponsored Masters of Clinical Research.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval NHS Health Research Authority (HRA) North West—Liverpool East Research Ethics Committee (REC16/NW/0040).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The Chief Investigator will, upon reasonable request, make available relevant extended extracts of interview data only and not full transcripts.