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Erectile Dysfunction Prevalence Increases with Age

Published: 2015-03-13 - Updated: 2021-01-12
Author: Harvard School of Public Health - Contact:
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Synopsis: Study finds erectile dysfunction (ED) is common among older men and increases with age, and men who were physically active had a lower prevalence for ED. ED was also more prevalent in men with diabetes, previous stroke, or among those who reported use of anti-depressants or beta-blockers. During the late 16th and 17th centuries in France, male impotence was considered a crime, as well as legal grounds for a divorce.

Main Digest

In the first large-scale study to assess age and erectile function, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that erectile dysfunction (ED) is common among older men and increases with age. They also found that men who were physically active and stayed lean had a lower prevalence for ED.


ED, or impotence, is sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual activity. A penile erection is the hydraulic effect of blood entering and being retained in sponge-like bodies within the penis. The process is most often initiated as a result of sexual arousal, when signals are transmitted from the brain to nerves in the penis.

The researchers assessed the sexual function of 31,742 men between the ages of 53 and 90, who were enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study ( and had responded to a questionnaire mailed in 2000 that, among other questions related to health, asked about sexual function, physical activity, body weight, smoking and marital status. Men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer were excluded from the findings.

"The research shows that men who maintain an active lifestyle into their later years, who keep off extra weight, drink alcohol moderately, don't smoke and avoid sedentary behavior like watching a lot of TV, maintain healthy sexual function into their 50's, 60's and 70's," said Eric Rimm, senior author of the study and an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He added,

"By avoiding the classic risk factors for cardiovascular disease, men can help maintain better sexual function and live longer."

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Facts


This quality-reviewed article relating to our Erectile Dysfunction section was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Erectile Dysfunction Prevalence Increases with Age" was originally written by Harvard School of Public Health, and published by on 2015-03-13 (Updated: 2021-01-12). Should you require further information or clarification, Harvard School of Public Health can be contacted at Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

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Cite This Page (APA): Harvard School of Public Health. (2015, March 13). Erectile Dysfunction Prevalence Increases with Age. Disabled World. Retrieved September 23, 2023 from

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