Erectile dysfunction (ED) is commonly rising in older men, however, recently, erectile dysfunction is on a rise in young men. ED in young men can be overlooked and dismissed by healthcare professionals as there is an assumption that it is a self-limiting condition in the younger years. A study has shown that the organic causes of ED such as metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors are prevalent in young men. 

The Journal of Sexual Medicine released a study in 2013 showing over 26% of men under 40 are struggling with ED. Having trouble with maintaining an erection from time to time is not uncommon in men, but if it is a continual issue, it is referred to as erectile dysfunction. ED is defined as the lack of ability to get or maintain an erection during sexual activity. 25% of cases of ED are related to medication side effects. Another common cause of ED is alcohol. 

ED Symptoms: 

  • Inability to get an erection
  • Inability to keep an erection 
  • Reduced libido

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Not Just an Old Man’s Problem 

While ED can occur at any point in life, it tends to be more common for older men. This is usually due to its like with health problems including mental health issues. Heart disease and conditions such as high blood pressure can impact erections. On the other hand, most mental health medications can have side effects resulting in lowered libido and ED.

Erections involve an increased blood flow to the blood vessels to the penis. However, conditions such as high cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis and can block the flow to the penis. High cholesterol is no longer an issue in ageing men as the eating habits and lifestyle of younger men can increase cholesterol issues in younger men. Lifestyle is also a huge factor in ED. Smoking, alcohol use and weight issues can have significant effects in maintaining an erection. 

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Causes of ED in young men

Mental health 

In the current world we live in, stress, depression and anxiety is on a rise, which can be transient causes of ED. The expectation for men to perform to high standards in the bedroom can put pressure on them leading to anxiety in the bedroom which can manifest as ED. On the other hand, due to the societal pressures on young men in this 21st century, more young people struggle with stress, anxiety and depression than generations prior. The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and declines in jobs and purpose has also led to a rise in anxiety and depression amongst individuals. 

On the flip side, anti-depressants, which can be used to treat depression and anxiety can have the common side effect of decreased libido (reduction in sex drive) and ED. Different antidepressants have their specific side effects, for example, escitalopram can cause delayed ejaculation. A study on antidepressants found that around 30-60% of antidepressant users experience antidepressant induced sexual dysfunction. 


The link between unhealthy eating and erectile dysfunction is solid. Junk foods are always processed and full of fat which can lead to high cholesterol and eventual narrowing of the arteries. This leads to an increase in blood pressure and reduced circulation meaning there is more resistance for the blood flow to the penis. With the affordability of junk foods and the increasing outreach of takeaway apps with easy home delivery, diet is a growing contributing factor to ED. 

Alcohol and drugs has become a popular pastime in the younger generation as a way to socialise or deal with societal pressures. Alcohol is a known depressant which has a great link to ED. 


With the internet allowing easy accessibility to a variety of things, online pornography is always easy to find. Regular consumption of porn is a likely contributor to ED. A study following participants watching over 300 minutes of porn per week scored lowered on their quality of sex life compared to other participants. On top of that, 45% of under 35s who classified themselves as heavy porn watchers suffered from ED. Research has found heavy consumption of porn desensitises and numbs men, and depletes their brain’s dopamine reserve, which causes an issue with sexual arousal in men. 


ED is treatable with medications such as Sildenafil. Sildenafil is a PDE-5 inhibitor, chemically known as a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor. They block an enzyme responsible for regulating the blood flow in the blood vessels of the body including the penis. PDE-5 enzyme breaks down cGMP which plays a part in relaxing smooth muscle tissue and regulating blood flow in the body such as the penile tissue responsible for erections. Blocking the phosphodiesterase type 5 in the body reduces the resistance to blood flow allowing it to flow more easily into the penis with the presence of a sexual stimulus. 

It is important to understand that these medications do not result in random erections. Erections only occur when you are sexually stimulated and aroused.

While Sildenafil can be used to treat ED, it can also be used as a treatment for PE. 

Sildenafil, Viagra, and Viagra Connect

Sildenafil is the generic drug name but Viagra is just a brand name for the same medication. Viagra has the same effects as Sildenafil for ED and PE. Viagra is a medication only available with a prescription. 

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