Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is generally considered a condition only affecting older men but recent research has found that sexual performance problems are far more prevalent among men under 40 years than previously thought.
A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2013 found that one in four men who sought help for erectile dysfunction at an outpatients clinic in Milan were under the age of 40. The study was based on data collected from 439 men, 26% of whom were under 40, who attended an outpatient clinic between 2010 and 2012 for newly developed erectile dysfunction. Surprisingly, nearly half of those men under 40 years, 48.8%, were severely affected by erectile dysfunction as compared to 40% of men aged over 40 years.
Unlike older men, this age group of men had lower body mass indexes, higher testosterone levels and fewer medical conditions which made them more predisposed to erectile dysfunction. This indicates that there were other factors responsible for their sexual health problems.
The men under 40 were more likely to experience premature ejaculation whereas the men over 40 were more likely to suffer from Peyronie’s disease, a condition where the erect penis is bent due to scar tissue.
Some of the younger men used drugs and smoked more frequently than older men which may have contributed to the problems. The toxic effects of smoking and drugs on the cardiovascular system can impact upon the blood supply to the penis, creating erectile problems.
Stress from employment or unemployment, relationships, family life, neurological conditions such as depression, metabolic conditions such as diabetes and certain medication can also affect the erectile function of the penis.
Angela Gregory, a leading psychosexual therapist believes that more young men than ever are seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction because of their addiction to easily accessible online porn on smartphones and tablets.
They are struggling to become aroused even when they want to have sex as graphic images leave them desensitised. She works with young men by asking them about the amount of porn they watch and recommends they reduce their viewing time, which generally resolves the problem of erectile dysfunction.
A recent conference presentation by the American Urological Association (May 2017) also linked watching porn to sexual dysfunction.
However the results have been disputed after further analysis as it was discovered those men who experienced ED were the same men who reported relationship and sexual dissatisfaction, preferring masturbation or watching porn to sex with their romantic partner.
“Men use masturbation to compensate for lack of sexual satisfaction in relationships. As this
sexual behavior is often accompanied by viewing pornography, it can be easily misunderstood,”
said David Ley, PhD, a psychologist with specialization in sexual difficulties.
Recent results from the latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) study of sexual health in Britain, show that young people are experiencing sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction, painful sex and premature ejaculation almost as much as older people. Sex education needs to include sexual pleasure in addition to sexual health to help younger people overcome these sexual problems.
How severe is severe ED?
There may be some differences in the reporting of how severe the problem is between men of different ages. Younger men may have higher sexual performance demands than older men and missing a single erection could be perceived as severe erectile dysfunction for younger men, whereas older men missing several erections might consider that to be severe.
Occasional missed erections are normal and can often be related to situational erectile dysfunction caused by stress and fatigue. If you are unable to get a normal sustained erection, either with a partner, by yourself or using the usual visual imagery, then you should seek medical help. Erectile dysfunction could be a sign of a more serious physical condition that requires medical treatment.
When younger men present with erectile dysfunction, there is a bias that their erectile dysfunction is caused by psychological factors rather than cardiac function. Erectile dysfunction is generally related to cardiovascular function and this should be considered in men under 40 years presenting with ED.
According to a US study most men do not receive treatment for ED despite the high prevalence of cases. Under treatment continues to be common, even though the range of treatments currently available are effective and can greatly improve quality of life. There needs to be a change in attitude by medical practitioners in the treatment of erectile dysfunction so that men receive the most appropriate treatment for their symptoms. What works for one man may not be effective for someone else.
If you think that you may be addicted to porn, seek advice. A reduction in your viewing time may be all it takes to overcome erectile dysfunction.
So, don’t suffer in silence – if you have a problem seek professional medical advice. A simple chat with your doctor could improve your sex life.