There's no denying that ED can be an embarrassing issue for lots of men. And for many, it is easier to turn to an internet forum for help rather than their doctor, as they feel more comfortable talking anonymously about their problems.
In an analysis of posts and comments from internet forums focused on ED, researchers were surprised to discover a large number of younger men opening up about the problem.
Forum participants opened up about deeply personal issues including reliance on porn, mental health and injuries to the penis.
Superdrug Online Doctor's research team analysed 7,835 comments and posts on a prominent ED forum, which had been posted over a period of eight years.
The research offers a fascinating insight into what men are saying about the condition.
They found that nearly 60% of men posting on the forums were under 24 years old. This was a surprising finding for researchers, as erectile dysfunction is generally considered a condition that strikes older men.
Researchers also discovered men were talking a lot about their reliance on internet porn and medications such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.
The semantic analysis looked at words which were commonly located near the word "penis" and found that many of them highlighted health problems and injuries to the penis.
The most common mentions were of words like "problem" and "problems", followed by "curved", "injury" and "curvature".
This, researchers believe, indicates that forum users could've also been discussing "curvature of the penis" or Peyronie’s disease, which can be caused by injuries during sex.
Other disconcerting mentions included terms such as "numb", "damage", "broken", "snapped," and "sound" – indicating that penis injuries might be more common than expected.
One man, aged 20, wrote: "Two years ago I had an incident. As I was about to achieve full erection something kinda snaps… I’m scared that I might have fractured my penis."
According to health experts, men are more likely to sustain such injuries if they have priapism or prolonged erections caused by taking Viagra.
Another common theme was the link between mental health issues such as performance anxiety and watching porn.
One man wrote on the forum: "I have been viewing internet pornography frequently (4 to 5 times a week) for the past 6 years. I am in my mid-20s and have had a problem getting and maintaining an erection with sexual partners since my late teens when I first started looking at internet porn."
Researchers found that the most common phrase after "erectile dysfunction" was "internet porn", "performance anxiety" and "watching porn".
The forum also highlighted that many people discussing ED also discussed mental health issues such as "depression" and "stress".