You might fear erectile dysfunction (ED) is an inevitable part of the aging process. But ED isn’t a normal part of aging. And while age contributes to ED, it doesn’t mean the end of erotic pleasure. Let’s look at the relationship between erectile dysfunction and age to highlight ways you can enjoy your sex life for many years to come.
Causes of ED
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough to engage in satisfactory sexual activity.
Male ED can be attributed to a variety of issues, including:
- Emotional or psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression
- Neurological conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s
- Hormonal issues, such as increased prolactin, low testosterone, and other imbalances caused by steroid abuse
- Vascular issues or problems with the circulatory system
- Cavernosal problems with the deep penile artery
- Side effects of medications, such as anti-anxiety meds and antidepressants
And yes, age can be a contributing factor to the issues mentioned above.
The relationship between age and ED
When it comes to erectile dysfunction symptoms & age, there’s a positive correlation. Studies show that by age 45, most men will have experienced ED at some point in their life. And it’s predicted that by 2025 nearly 332 million men will be affected by ED.
For most men, especially younger ones, their ED will be situational and episodic, and while this may be disappointing at times, it’s usually not a cause for concern. For others, however, ED can be a chronic condition that becomes more prevalent with age.
Research shows that by age 45, there’s approximately a 5% chance of chronic ED, compared with a 15% chance at age 70. The cases of ED among older men tend to be more severe, and older folks are less likely to seek treatment than their younger counterparts.
There’s still much to learn about the exact causes of ED and the aging process, but it’s likely due to neurological and hormonal changes that occur as we age.
Also, as men age, they’re more likely to accumulate other health factors that put them at risk of ED. Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes are examples of common health concerns among aging men that can cause ED.
At what age does erectile dysfunction start?
Most men will experience ED at some point in their life, and though it becomes more likely as you get older, it can begin at any age. That being said, erectile dysfunction is the most common sexual health issue that men experience as they age.
The average age for erectile dysfunction is hard to pin down, but approximately 25% of men experience ED between the ages of 50-59. And by age 60-69, 40% of men report issues with erectile dysfunction.
In addition, 40% of men will be impacted by erectile dysfunction by age 40. And for men in their 70’s, 70% experience ED.
As a general rule, younger men are less likely to experience erectile dysfunction. That being said, young men can certainly develop ED.
When it occurs in young men, ED is more likely to be psychological rather than physiological. In fact, there are plenty of cases of teen erectile dysfunction. Among younger folks, sexual performance anxiety is typically the most prevalent cause of ED, and, unfortunately, worrying about it will only make it worse!
Instead, you can learn to manage anxiety and reduce triggers, in addition to building knowledge and awareness about your brain, body, and sexual desires. This is one of the most effective approaches for treating sexual performance anxiety. Let’s look at some other treatment options for ED.
Treatment Options for ED
Of course, having sex in your 70’s won’t be the same as it was in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s for many reasons. But it can still be pleasurable, erotic, and satisfying. The good news is there are multiple options for treatment.
Sometimes simple lifestyle changes can reduce your risk for ED as you age. Losing weight, quitting smoking, managing stress, and improving communication in your relationship can have a significant positive effect.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven to be an effective treatment for ED caused by psychological issues. A trained clinician can provide psychosexual education and relationship skills while helping you reframe negative scripts or work through past traumas.
ED drugs such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra are highly effective for many men and probably the most well-known intervention. For 70% of healthy men, ED drugs can produce an erection hard enough to engage in intercourse. These meds are a good option for erectile dysfunction as you age, especially if behavioral approaches aren’t working.
If the above options aren’t effective, a more permanent intervention would be a penile implant. During a surgical procedure, bendable rods or inflatable devices are inserted into the shaft of the penis. This type of surgery is typically performed as a measure of last resort.
Consult with a clinician
If you or a loved one are experiencing ED, consult with a clinician to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment options. Given the array of interventions, chances are you can find a path back to sexual pleasure and connection.
- As men age, they are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction.
- ED is caused by aging factors and other health issues that become more likely as you age.
- Depending on the cause of ED, there are multiple treatment options.
- You can have a satisfying and pleasurable sex life even if you experience erectile dysfunction.
- Bacon et al. (2003). Sexual Function in Men Older Than 50 Years of Age: Results from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-139-3-200308050-00005
- Seftel (2003). Erectile Dysfunction in the Elderly: Epidemiology, Etiology and Approaches to Treatment. The Journal of Urology. https://sci-hub.do/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022534705635197
- Selvin et al. (2007). Prevalence and Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction in the US. The American Journal of Medicine https://sci-hub.do/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002934306006899
- Wagle et al. (2012). The Implications of Increasing Age on Erectile Dysfunction. American Journal of Men’s Health https://sci-hub.do/https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1557988311431629