Can Erectile Dysfunction Happen At Any Age?

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.

At What Age Do Men Start Getting Erectile Dysfunction?

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 [1].

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.

Table 1: Overall Ability to Function Sexually

 Ages 53-59Ages 60-69Ages 70-79Ages 80-90
Poor or very poor10%23%47%64%
Good or excellent74%54%26%10%
Missing data3%4%8%14%

Likewise, in terms of erection ability, participants were less likely to be able to have an erection the older they were.

Table 2: Erection Ability In the Previous Three Months

 Ages 53-59Ages 60-69Ages 70-79Ages 80-90
Poor or very poor10%26%50%60%
Good or very good74%50%23%8%
Missing data4%6%11%23%

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 [2].

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 [3].

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.

Table 3a: Distribution of ED by Age (MarketScan Data)

 Ages 18-29Ages 30-39Ages 40-49Ages 50-59Ages 60-69Ages 70-79Ages 80-89Ages ≥ 90
% with ED1.7%6.6%20.1%36.0%26.1%7.5%1.7%0.1%

Table 3b: Distribution of ED by Age (Humedica EHR Data)

 Ages 18-29Ages 30-39Ages 40-49Ages 50-59Ages 60-69Ages 70-79Ages 80-89
% with ED1.4%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.

Erectile Dysfunction In Young Men

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 [10]. Another study expressed concern after finding that 1 out of 4 patients with ED were less than 40 years old [11].

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.

Contributing Factors to Erectile Dysfunction

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:

  • Cancer
  • Strokes
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Use of antidepressants
  • Smoking
  • Obesity or being overweight (BMI of 25 kg/m2 or above)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Anxiety and depression [6]
  • High cholesterol
  • Low testosterone or hypogonadism [7]
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Sleep disorders [8]
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Alcohol abuse [9]

What Can I Do to Prevent Erectile Dysfunction?

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.

Conclusion: Erectile Dysfunction Age

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.

References Used

  1. Jaderek, I., & Lew-Starowicz, M. (2019). A systematic review on mindfulness meditation–based interventions for sexual dysfunctions. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 16(10), 1581-1596.
  2. Ferrini, M. G., Gonzalez-Cadavid, N. F., & Rajfer, J. (2017). Aging related erectile dysfunction—potential mechanism to halt or delay its onset. Translational andrology and urology, 6(1), 20.
  3. Mulhall, J. P., Luo, X., Zou, K. H., Stecher, V., & Galaznik, A. (2016). Relationship between age and erectile dysfunction diagnosis or treatment using real‐world observational data in the USA. International journal of clinical practice, 70(12), 1012-1018.
  4. Shamloul, R., & Ghanem, H. (2013). Erectile dysfunction. The Lancet, 381(9861), 153-165.
  5. Wyllie, M. G. (2005). The underlying pathophysiology and causes of erectile dysfunction. Clinical Cornerstone, 7(1), 19-26.
  6. Rajkumar, R. P., & Kumaran, A. K. (2015). Depression and anxiety in men with sexual dysfunction: a retrospective study. Comprehensive psychiatry, 60, 114-118.
  7. Rajfer, J. (2000). Relationship between testosterone and erectile dysfunction. Reviews in urology, 2(2), 122.
  8. Cho, J. W., & Duffy, J. F. (2019). Sleep, sleep disorders, and sexual dysfunction. The world journal of men’s health, 37(3), 261-275.
  9. Arackal, B. S., & Benegal, V. (2007). Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(2), 109.
  10. Rastrelli, G., & Maggi, M. (2017). Erectile dysfunction in fit and healthy young men: psychological or pathological?. Translational andrology and urology, 6(1), 79.
  11. Capogrosso, P., Colicchia, M., Ventimiglia, E., Castagna, G., Clementi, M. C., Suardi, N., … & Salonia, A. (2013). One patient out of four with newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction is a young man—worrisome picture from the everyday clinical practice. The journal of sexual medicine, 10(7), 1833-1841.






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