Erectile Dysfunction Common With Age
Modifiable Lifestyle Factors Increase Risk of Erectile Dysfunction
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 4, 2003 --- A new study shows that as men age they
eventually will come face to face with erectile dysfunction (ED), commonly
known as impotence.
The research, published in the August 2003 issue of Annals
of Internal Medicine, shows that ED is common among older men and sexual
function sharply decreases after age 50.
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to attain or maintain an
erection adequate for the sexual satisfaction of both partners. At one time,
doctors tended to blame ED on psychological problems or, with older men, on the
normal aging process. Today, urologists say physical factors underlie perhaps
90% of cases of persistent erectile dysfunction in men older than 50.
Researchers surveyed more than 31,000 health professionals,
aged 53-90, about their sexual function. They asked volunteers to rate their
ability in the previous three months -- without treatment -- to have and
maintain an erection adequate for intercourse. Men with "poor" or
"very poor" ability were considered to have erectile dysfunction.
Researchers assessed other factors such as age, physical
activity, alcohol intake, and smoking -- which can affect erectile
The Younger the Man, the Better the Function
Results showed that age played a primary role in men who said
they had ED. The older the men, the higher the reports of ED. The reports
ranged from "good" function among younger men to a steady decline to
"poor" among the older group.
The majority of younger men (74%) rated sexual function as good
or very good; only 10% of men older than 80 rated sexual function the same.
Only 12% of younger men reported big or moderate problems. But nearly a quarter
to a third of men older than 50 reported this degree of severity in sexual
- 2% reported first experiencing ED before age 40
- 4% reported first experiencing ED between ages 40 to 49
- 26% reported first experiencing ED between ages 50 to 59
- 40% reported first experiencing ED between ages 60 to 69
Men with a healthy lifestyle and no chronic disease had the
lowest risk for erectile dysfunction; the greatest difference was seen for men
aged 65-79. For instance, men who exercised at least three hours per week had a
30% lower risk for ED than those who exercised little. Obesity, smoking, and
excessive TV watching were also associated with having a greater risk of
Erectile dysfunction affects as many as 20 million American
men. It can be devastating to self-esteem and have far reaching effects on
relationships. Researchers say they hope their study will shed new light on the
condition and help fight its social stigma.