Men in their 30s have the highest levels of erection problems, according to a surprising survey, and men of all ages are struggling to talk about the problem.
Although most commonly associated with ageing men, erectile dysfunction can happen at any age and may be more common in younger men than people think.
43 per cent of all British men aged 18 to 60 say they suffer from impotence, and they are most likely to point the finger at stress, tiredness, anxiety, and drinking alcohol.
Failing to get or maintain an erection is common and usually nothing to worry about, but it can be embarrassing.
Men are reluctant to talk about their bedroom troubles and around one in five said it had led to a break-up or mental health problems.
Many men feel too embarrassed to talk about their erection problems and more than one in four would rather end a relationship than talk to their GP about it
Researchers polled 2,003 men about their experience of impotence in a campaign for the Coop Pharmacy, which aims to break the taboo around it.
The pharmacy’s #whatdoyoucallit campaign intends to stop men feeling shame in talking about their penis, whatever word they want to use to refer to it.
Dysfunction least common in 20s but worst in 30s
Poll results showed that men aged under 30 have the least difficulty in getting it up – at 35 per cent – but that figure shoots up to 50 per cent among men in their 30s.
42 per cent of men in their 40s and 41 per cent of those in their 50s report experiencing erectile dysfunction.
TV doctor Hilary Jones said: ‘Erectile dysfunction is a taboo in our society that needs to be broken.
‘In an age when many people are happy to share intimate details of their lives on social media, it is a huge cause for concern that men today do not feel confident enough to discuss openly their struggles with impotence.’
Over one in four would rather end relationship than see a GP
WHAT CAUSES IMPOTENCE?
Erectile dysfunction is often temporary and doesn’t have a serious cause, but can sometimes be a symptom of a wider problem.
Here are some causes of impotence:
Cardiovascular: Diabetes affects the blood supply by narrowing the arteries and damaging the nervous system, giving a doubly harmful effect. Heart disease and high blood pressure can have a similar effect.
Lifestyle: Being overweight will increase the risk of developing heart disease, circulation problems and type 2 diabetes. Heavy drinking and cigarette smoking also contribute to conditions which affect erections.
Low testosterone: This kills the libido, making sex impossible. Low testosterone can be hormonal or can be caused by treatments for prostate cancer.
Nervous system disorders: Stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and damage to the spinal cord by injury can all prevent nerve messages from the brain reaching the penis.
Medication: Drugs that can cause impotence include anti-depressants such as Prozac, and medication for high blood pressure such as beta-blockers and diuretics.
Psychological: Depression is one of the main causes of impotence, which can set up a vicious cycle if impotence makes a man even more depressed. The same applies to fear of failure in bed, which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A third of men with erectile dysfunction have not told anyone about it and, shockingly, 27 per cent say they would rather break up with their partner than go and see a GP about it.
Four in ten men blame stress for the sexual issue, with the other most common causes being tiredness (36 per cent), anxiety (29 per cent) and boozing too heavily (26 per cent).
Staying late at the office also affects men’s performance in bed, with 57 per cent of those who work late most days having problems compared to 32 per cent who never have to work late.
Often impotence will only be temporary but in some cases it can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition or a side effect of medication.
Conditions which can increase the risk of impotence include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and low testosterone.
Viagra now available without a prescription
Treatment can involve taking a pill like Viagra to stimulate erections, or taking medication if there is an underlying problem.
Adrian Wilkinson at Coop Pharmacy said: ‘The results of the survey clearly show that erectile dysfunction is something that’s having a huge impact on almost half of the male population in the UK.
‘It’s with this in mind that we want to de-stigmatise any negative misconceptions and start talking about impotence and normalising it.
‘We want to help men feel good, know they’re not alone and know they’re not being judged.
‘We don’t want men to resort to splitting up with their partners, especially now Viagra Connect is available over the counter in pharmacies and online too.
‘Men can access this product themselves, easily, conveniently and, if they’re concerned, discreetly.’
Aspirin could help
Viagra is not the only way to overcome the problem, and a recent study suggested Aspirin could treat erectile dysfunction.
Researchers in Turkey found just one 100mg pill a day for six weeks significantly reduced circulation issues in men.
At the beginning of the study, 70 per cent of the 184 men – who had an average age of 48 – could not achieve an erection.
By the end, they found their ‘erectile function score’ went up from 14.3 out of 30 (less than 50 per cent) to 21.3 (more than 75 per cent) , based on the universally accepted Index of Erectile Function scale.
Those statistics aren’t far off the success rate marketed by Viagra – between 48 percent and 81 percent.