Erectile Dysfunction: Not Just For Old Men

October 28th 2015

Laura Donovan

Viagra commercials—and others of their ilk, like Cialis, Levitra—tend to be geared towards older men. However, erectile dysfunction (ED) is more common among young men than you might think. A 2013 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that an estimated one in four new patients with ED are younger than 40 years old.

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According to data from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, ED rates appear to correspond with age groups. The older you get, the more you need medication to help with an erection, but there's still a hefty number of men in their 20s and 30s who find themselves using it as well. 

“Roughly 40 percent of men in their 40s suffer from ED, 50 percent in their 50s, etc.,” Dr. Tobias Köhler, chief of the Division of Male Infertility at Southern Illinois University, told Men's Health last year.

Additionally, Viagra, which assists men with getting and maintaining erections, has also become more popular among younger men. Nearly a quarter of men ages 18 to 30 have used it recreationally, and almost 75 percent of these men have used it more than once.

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What causes ED?

There are many reasons why men suffer from ED—opioid painkillers, smoking, and alcohol are just a few causes.

Sometimes, it's purely psychological. For example, if a man has trouble getting it up, he might fixate on the issue and in turn struggle with becoming hard shortly thereafter. Anxiety hormones can have a major impact on a man's ability to get an erection, according to Dr. Köhler.

“A lot of men may have an off night, and then that sticks in their head and hurts their performance for a few weeks or months,” Dr. Köhler said.

A poor diet can also play a role in ED. When you gain weight from junk food, your vascular function changes, Dr. Köhler said, and good blood flow is the key to an erection. It's no secret that many young people gravitate towards unhealthy eating habits when they are busy, stressed, and not cooking elaborate meals for themselves.

A sedentary lifestyle is also to blame. It's no secret that Americans do too much sitting for their own good, with many spending the majority of their days on a chair or couch. Whether they're sitting for nine or more hours a day at work or relaxing on the sofa at night, they're increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, and heart disease.

This lack of movement, according to Dr. Köhler, negatively impacts your health and overall fitness level, which can ultimately make it more difficult becoming erect. That certainly makes a good case against "Netflix and Chill."

November is Movember, a month dedicated to spreading awareness on men's health issues. For more on Movember and men's health, check out Movember's website.