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Erectile Dysfunction: More Common Than You Think

UPGUYS > Blog > Sex > Erectile Dysfunction: More Common Than You Think
The person who wrote this article

Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on April 14, 2023

How Common Is ED in Canada and Around the World

It’s hard to stay hard sometimes. External factors like stress, poor diet and lack of exercise — which have become all too common in our everyday lives — can contribute to an inability to get and keep an erection. Internally, guys put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform sexually, and doing so can actually make things worse. 

Most men have at least one story of when they were unable to get it up, perhaps after a night of drinking, or with a new partner. But how common is erectile dysfunction, really? 

According to The Canadian Urology Association (CUA), erectile dysfunction (ED) is a highly-prevalent condition that negatively impacts the physical and mental well-being of men. In its practice guidelines for ED, CUA says that nearly half of all Canadian men (49.4%) over the age of 40 experience erectile dysfunction. It also cites other studies that have shown between 1-in-20 and 1-in-5 men of all ages will experience moderate to severe ED in their lifetime. 

A landmark and oft-cited study entitled the Massachusetts Male Aging Study found similar results among men south of the border. Approximately 40% of men are affected by ED at the age of 40, with that number jumping to 70% by age 70. More recent reviews of scientific data estimate up to one-third of all men experience ED. Another study of the prevalence of erectile dysfunction around the globe found that between 3 and 76.5% men could expect to be affected by ED. And if 3% doesn’t seem like a lot, keep in mind there are nearly 4 billion men in the world. 

No matter which dataset you look at, it’s clear that erectile dysfunction affects men all over the globe. But there are varying degrees of erectile dysfunction. The Cleveland Clinic says that while 1-in-10 men will suffer from long-term ED, an occasional inability to achieve and maintain an erection is common. They assess that the failure to achieve an erection less than 20% of the time is not unusual, and might not require treatment. However, if erectile difficulties occur more than half the time, they should be treated. 

Common ED Treatments:

Your doctor is always the best resource for diagnosing and treating ED. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a wide variety of physical, environmental and psychological factors, which will help determine the best course of action. 

A doctor may prescribe medications known as PDE5 inhibitors. These meds are available in both daily and on-demand varieties. They’ve shown to be effective in upwards of 70% of patients with minimal side effects. However, like with any prescription medication, there is a potential for serious side effects and dangerous interactions with other drugs. You should never take ED medication without the approval of a licensed medical professional. 

Instead of, or perhaps in combination with prescription medicines, changes to lifestyle habits can make a big difference in overcoming erectile dysfunction. Obesity and ED are closely associated, with one study showing that 22 of 30 patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher suffered from ED. That’s why experts are increasingly pointing to improvements in diet and exercise as considerations for overcoming ED. 

One academic review recommends moderate-to-vigorous physical activity four times per week to help decrease instances of ED. It found that 160 minutes of exercise per week (a little over 20 minutes per day) over a period of 6 months contributed to decreasing erectile problems in men caused by inactivity, obesity and high blood pressure. Other studies have shown regular tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption can also have deleterious effects on erectile function. 

On top of improving lifestyle habits, therapy might be able to get at the underlying psychological causes of ED. Penis pumps can also help men with mild ED looking for an alternative to prescription medications or more invasive interventions like surgery or injections. 

The Bottom Line

Two things are true with respect to erectile dysfunction: it is a common condition; and there are many ways to treat it. Whether the cause of your ED is physical (diabetes, hypertension, obesity, inactivity) or psychological (stress, anxiety, depression), a doctor or pharmacist will know how to help. The important thing is to remember that you’re not alone in trying to overcome ED, and that seeking help is the first step towards improving your sexual health. 

This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.