Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to produce or maintain an erection long enough to achieve successful sexual intercourse. Several studies have found that age plays a chief role in enabling this condition, affecting millions worldwide — however, it’s not the only factor.
This article looks at ED by age, the contributing factors, and how to prevent it.
While you can suffer from ED at any age, people generally start getting ED at 40 years old, and it’s very likely to affect people over 50. Studies have shown that age is a common factor for this condition, but it isn’t the only cause.
The largest survey on the relationship between ED and age, published in 2003, involved 31,742 male health professionals ranging from 53 to 90 years old. It was limited to U.S. citizens .
Participants had to answer questions about their ability to function sexually, such as their quality of erection and ability to reach orgasm, among many others.
On the first item, the survey showed that participants had less ability to function as time progressed. The answers rating ability as poor or very poor more than tripled between 50 and 70-year-olds.
|Ages 53-59||Ages 60-69||Ages 70-79||Ages 80-90|
|Poor or very poor||10%||23%||47%||64%|
|Good or excellent||74%||54%||26%||10%|
Likewise, in terms of erection ability, participants were less likely to be able to have an erection the older they were.
|Ages 53-59||Ages 60-69||Ages 70-79||Ages 80-90|
|Poor or very poor||10%||26%||50%||60%|
|Good or very good||74%||50%||23%||8%|
Researchers also found that the ability to have an erection wasn’t the only thing affected by age. Many aspects, including sexual desire and orgasm, decreased over the decades.
A study from 2017 had similar findings: a 40-year-old has a 40% chance of having ED in some form, and the likelihood increases by 10% each decade .
Another study utilized data in the Truven Health MarketScan Research and Humedica EHR databases from 2009-2014 for the former and 2007-2014 for the latter .
Of the 19,833,939 men in the MarketScan database, 1,108,842 (5.6%) had ED or were undergoing treatment for it. Similarly, out of 5,292,370 men in the Humedica EHR data, only 364,723 (6.9%) had the condition.
|Ages 18-29||Ages 30-39||Ages 40-49||Ages 50-59||Ages 60-69||Ages 70-79||Ages 80-89||Ages ≥ 90|
|% with ED||1.7%||6.6%||20.1%||36.0%||26.1%||7.5%||1.7%||0.1%|
|Ages 18-29||Ages 30-39||Ages 40-49||Ages 50-59||Ages 60-69||Ages 70-79||Ages 80-89|
|% with ED||1.4%||5.1%||16.3%||30.6%||29.1%||14.9%||2.6%|
While not exact, this study has correlations with the survey from 2003. Researchers also made an interesting conclusion. Those with ED had a higher chance of having comorbidities when compared with men without the condition.
While aging does affect the ability to maintain an erection, it doesn’t affect older adults only. Many of the contributing factors mentioned above aren’t related to age, and any person can have them, no matter how old.
According to an estimate, 8% of males aged 20-29 and 11% of males aged 30-39 are affected by ED . Another study expressed concern after finding that 1 out of 4 patients with ED were less than 40 years old .
The common causes of ED in young people are mainly psychological, such as stress, depression, or anxiety, but lifestyle choices and habits can also contribute to it. In addition, ED can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
The MarketScan/Humedica study confirmed that chronic diseases and risk factors are prevalent in the lives of people affected by ED. Likewise, those without contributing factors had the lowest ED rates regardless of age [4, 5].
The medical conditions and risk factors associated with ED were:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Use of antidepressants
- Obesity or being overweight (BMI of 25 kg/m2 or above)
- Lack of physical activity
- Anxiety and depression 
- High cholesterol
- Low testosterone or hypogonadism 
- Enlarged prostate
- Sleep disorders 
- Alcohol abuse 
Aging is inevitable, but ED is not, and while there’s a chance of it affecting you as you get older, there are many ways to reduce its risk factors. Effectively, any person can apply these changes and prevent ED from happening.
Lifestyle changes that might prevent ED:
- Get good-quality sleep
- Perform physical activities such as exercise or sports
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight
- Drink less alcohol
- Give up smoking
If you’re already experiencing ED, you might need different treatments depending on the likely cause. Psychological causes may need to be treated by a mental health professional, while physical ones may require new medications or a change in current ones.
Aging is a common cause of ED because of the risk factors it creates. Generally, the condition first affects people between 40 and 50 years old, but it depends on the individual’s health.
Not all the contributing factors are linked with age, though, and ED also affects young people, often due to mental health issues.
However, there are ways to treat or simply prevent ED from happening, and all depend on living a healthier life and dropping harmful habits and lifestyles. Better sleep, exercising, and healthy eating can lead to better erections and sexual performance.
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