Up to thirty million American men are affected at the present time. More new cases arise (or don't arise!) every day, on the order of 600,000-700,000 new cases each year. That means that almost two thousand American men roll over every night and say, "This never happened to me before." Even so, most of these men have not yet sought treatment.
The incidence goes up substantially with age, increasing significantly above the age of sixty-five-which is rapidly approaching for the baby boomers. Although erectile dysfunction becomes more likely with advancing age, there is certainly no age cutoff for a sexually fulfilling life. Some men enjoy sexual activity into their eighties and nineties.
Although impossible to document, almost every adult male experiences at least one occasion when he is not satisfied with the outcome. When surveyed, at least 50 percent will complain of difficulties at some point in life about some degree of erectile insufficiency. The definitive research quoted is the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, published in 1994.2 This survey was the first comprehensive look at sexual activity since the Kinsey survey forty years earlier.3 The researchers studied 1,290 men and found that over half of them complained of some degree of erectile dysfunction. This was broken down into those with minimal (17 percent), moderate (25 percent) or severe (10 percent) erectile dysfunction.
Strikingly, almost 40 percent of the men had some degree of erectile dysfunction by the age of forty. By the time their subjects reached seventy, two-thirds of them reported erectile dysfunction. These percentages represent huge numbers of men of a similar age in society. Moreover, if you add in cofactors like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, ulcers, arthritis, and allergies, the percentage of men with erectile dysfunction went up even higher. The same thing was found among men taking medications in several categories. Psychological factors that increased risk or erectile dysfunction included depression, excessive alcohol use, and anger.
The greatest risk factor of all was found to be smoking. Smokers were almost three times as likely as nonsmokers to be completely unable to achieve an erection. Thus, the incidence of erectile dysfunction is huge, perhaps as high as 150 million men worldwide. Assuming two-thirds of men have at least some trouble by the age of seventy as shown in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, most men will experience problems if they live long enough. That doesn't have to be discouraging news, however. Instead, it should let you know that you're not alone. Be sure to speak up to your physician if there is a problem. Help is readily available, so you are only alone if you choose to be.
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