Penis Problems: Erectile Dysfunction Isn't Just About Problems With Erections - It Could Indicate An Early Death

31/12/2015 10:05 | Updated 31 December 2015
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Erectile dysfunction - the inability to get an maintain an erection - can be a hugely upsetting condition for men.

Although it largely affects older men - around 50% of men aged 40-70 may experience some form of it, it also affects around 20% of men under 40.

While penis function is the main concern for the sufferer, a new study by the University of Mississippi has revealed there may be a more serious, underlying issue.

After looking at data from 1,790 men between the ages of 20 to 85 who participated in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the US, they found the disorder may be a marker for heart disease.

They also cross referenced the survey data with death certificates from the National Death Index through 21 December 2011.


Scientists posed the question: "How would you describe your ability to get and keep an erection adequate for satisfactory intercourse?"

They found that 557 of the survey respondents had the disorder, and after eight years, 244 had died - just under 50%.

Sixty one of those deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease, 64 from malignant neoplasms, 12 from chronic lower respiratory diseases and the remainder from a range of causes.

Although the findings placed the increased mortality risk quite high at 70%, the authors of the paper caveated it by saying that it should be interpreted with caution as among the evaluated sample of 1,790 adults, only 61 adults between 20 to 49 years had erectile dysfunction, and among these 61 patients, only four died during the follow-up period.

Erectile dysfuntion can be caused by physical or psychological problems. The NHS says that the following may be responsible:


  • narrowing of the blood vessels going to the penis – commonly associated with high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol or diabetes
  • hormonal problems
  • surgery or injury


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • relationship problems

Although it can be a difficult condition to talk about, the NHS advises chatting to your GP if you are concerned you have it.

There are possible treatments depending on the cause of it, but in the case of narrowing of the arteries (which can be one of the most common causes of ED), losing weight and making healthier food choices might be a good fix.

In some cases, it may alo require medication, and they write that "vacuum pumps that encourage blood to flow to the penis and cause an erection are also successful in 90% of cases."

If the root cause is psychological, then cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which you can get through the NHS or privately if you prefer has been hailed as a success as well as couples therapy.

Reassuringly, it is possible to have the sex life you once had.

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