Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a very common condition that affects an estimated 30 million men in the United States alone.
Like many other sexual dysfunctions, ED can vary in severity. Some men with ED find it difficult to get an erection at all, while others may be able to get an erection but have difficulty keeping it for long enough to have satisfying, fulfilling sex.
Although erectile dysfunction can potentially affect men of any age, it’s generally more common in middle-aged and older men than it is in younger men.
Below, we’ve looked at the relationship between age and ED to help you learn more about how your age may affect your risk. We’ve also explained how other age-related medical issues may contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Finally, we’ve looked at the options that are available for treating ED, from medications such as sildenafil and tadalafil to habits, lifestyle changes and more.
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a condition in which you find it difficult or impossible to develop or maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused.
ED can vary in severity. Some men may be able to get an erection but find it difficult to maintain it during sex. Others may not be able to get an erection at all. Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with ED if you:
Like many other sexual performance issues, symptoms of ED can come and go. You might find it easy to get an erection at some points in your life, then struggle with persistent or severe ED at others.
Erectile dysfunction has numerous potential causes, some of which are related to aging. It often occurs as a result of certain diseases and medical conditions, including the following:
ED can also occur as a result of medications, behaviors and psychological issues. For example, common medications such as those used to treat high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and other conditions are often associated with an increased risk of ED.
Psychological issues that can cause or worsen ED include depression, low self-esteem, stress and sexual performance anxiety.
Habits that can cause or worsen ED include lack of physical activity, being overweight, smoking, drinking alcohol excessively and illicit drug use.
Our full guide to the causes of erectile dysfunction goes into more detail on the factors that may increase your risk of experiencing ED.
Research shows that age is one of the factors most closely linked to ED. Put simply, the older you are, the more at risk you are of developing erectile dysfunction.
One of the most thorough, comprehensive studies of erectile dysfunction, the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, looked at the sexual health of more than 1,700 men aged from 40 to 70 in Massachusetts during the late 1980s.
The study found that the combined prevalence rate for minimal, moderate or complete erectile dysfunction was 52 percent, with a man’s age the factor most strongly associated with ED.
Interestingly, complete erectile dysfunction was present in three times the number of men aged 70 compared to the men aged forty.
Other research has produced similar results. For example, a scientific review from 2017 noted that a man in his 40s has a 40 percent chance of developing some form of erectile dysfunction, with this risk increasing by 10 percent with each additional decade.
Finally, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that 5.1 percent of men in their 20s and 30s suffer from erectile dysfunction, compared to 70.2 percent of men aged 70 or older.
In short, science very much supports the common perception that ED becomes more common as you get older.
Now, it’s important to put this research in context. Age isn’t the only factor that affects your risk of developing erectile dysfunction, nor does getting older guarantee that you’ll eventually have to deal with difficulty getting or maintaining an erection.
However, age is very closely associated with other health issues that can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction.
For example, it’s common for your vascular system to gradually change as you age. Partly as a result of this age-related change, conditions like high blood pressure, a known cause of erectile dysfunction, become more common.
In fact, data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows that 70 percent of adults 65 years of age or older have high blood pressure.
Similarly, other health issues related to ED often become more common with age. Diabetes, a disease that’s closely linked to ED, is more than twice as common in adults aged 45 and older than it is in people aged 18 to forty-four.
As you get older, it’s important to be aware of these diseases and medical conditions, as well as the risks they may have for both your general health and your sexual performance.
By being aware of these risks and living a healthy lifestyle (a topic we’ve covered in more detail below), you can reduce your risk of developing erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is almost always treatable, either through lifestyle changes, medication or both. By staying on top of your health and making effective use of ED medication, you’ll find it easier to maintain your sexual performance as you get older.
If you have mild or moderate ED, making certain changes to your lifestyle may help you to get and keep an erection without the use of medication. Try to:
Our guide to naturally protecting your erection goes into more detail about how you can improve your erectile health without medication.
Several FDA-approved medications are available to treat ED. These work by increasing the rate of blood flow to the erectile tissue of your penis. Your options include:
We offer generic versions of several well-known ED medications online, following a consultation with a physician who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Although ED medications are safe for most people, they can cause certain side effects and may interact with some medications used to treat hypertension. Our guide to what you should expect from ED medication lists side effects and interactions that you should be aware of.
Age and erectile dysfunction are closely correlated, with studies showing that ED is a relatively common issue for men in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
However, this doesn’t mean that getting older means being forced to deal with ED. By living a healthy lifestyle, treating underlying conditions and using FDA-approved medications, you can enjoy optimal sexual performance and a fulfilling sex life regardless of your age.
Erectile dysfunction can be frustrating, especially when it occurs at the worst moment. Luckily, it’s very treatable. Our complete guide to erectile dysfunction explains why ED occurs, as well as the steps you can take to treat it and enjoy better, more consistent sexual performance.