Erectile Dysfunction’s Most Common Causes

A Look at 10 of the Most Oft-Cited Causes for ED

Credit: Hence the Boom / Unsplash

Disclaimer: Your healthcare provider is the best source of health and medical information. Articles written by UPGUYS are informed by peer-reviewed studies and research, as well as governmental health authorities and agencies—but they cannot replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns you might have. 

If you’ve followed along on our blog and Medium page, you should have learned at least three things: 

Whether you’re a regular reader or new to UPGUYS, we want to provide you with as much information as possible to help you make informed decisions and deepen your learning about men’s health. 

So for this blog, we’re going to keep it nice and simple. Here are 10 of the most common causes of ED. 


As the years pass by, the chances of developing erectile dysfunction increase significantly. Even though some studies have shown worrying increases in erectile function issues in younger men, the bulk of the research has involved men mostly 40 years of age or older—the age at which ED starts to become most prevalent. Upwards of 40% of men can expect to experience some form of ED at the age of 40, with that number increasing by 10% with each passing decade. 


Men with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can be as much as three-times more likely to develop ED. That said, diabetics who manage their blood pressure well, stay active and consume a healthy diet can help their cause in the erectile function department. Studies have also shown that ED medication like Viagra can be effective in treating impotence in type 2 diabetics. 

High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Heart Disease

If your heart is having trouble pumping blood to all parts of your body, you can see how ED and cardiovascular issues would be connected. Hypertensive men are more likely than healthy men to complain of ED, either as a result of the hypertension itself or the medication used to treat it. Experts also believe there is a strong linkage between ED and heart disease


There are more than a few health concerns associated with being overweight or obese. When you consider that obesity is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes—all of which figure prominently on this list—it should come as no surprise that research has demonstrated a clear and significant connection between obesity and ED

Mental/Emotional Health 

Men need the right combination of physical stimulation and sound state of mind to get and keep an erection. That’s why mental and emotional health issues can make a big impact on erectile function. Stress related to work, life and relationships, anxiety about performing sexually, and depression are just a few of the common mental health issues that can contribute to ED. 


Smoking, chewing tobacco, and other products with nicotine can decrease blood flow in your body, making it more difficult for men to achieve an erection. A study of more than 1300 men found that those who currently or had previously smoked were more likely to experience ED than those who never smoked. A 2008 study showed that nicotine had a negative impact on erectile response to sexual stimulation.  

Prescription and Recreational Drugs

Certain prescription medications for depression and high blood pressure have been shown to play a role in causing ED. Recreational drugs like opiates, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol can also be detrimental to men’s sexual health—especially with heavy and prolonged use. 

No matter what’s causing ED, there are many treatment options available. Sometimes changes to lifestyle like increased exercise, improved diet, decreased alcohol and drug consumption can help to treat or even reverse ED. 

If appropriate, your doctor may even prescribe prescription erectile dysfunction meds like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) or vardenafil (Levitra). The first step in addressing it should be to talk to a healthcare professional. She or he will be able to assess the current state of your health and work on a plan suited to your individual needs.