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Two thirds of men over 45 could suffer from erectile dysfunction

22nd July 2013 - Cancer research

Study reveals age, disease and lifestyle shorten sex life

Australian men are being urged to get active to beat erectile dysfunction as new research published today reveals almost two thirds of men aged 45 and above have suffered from the condition.

Cancer Council NSW research, using data from the 45 and Up Study, is the largest study ever on erectile dysfunction*. The study, published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, shows that 61 per cent of men surveyed have been affected by erectile dysfunction, with the odds of a man experiencing ED increasing by 11.3 per cent each year over the age of 45.

Associate Professor David Smith from Cancer Council NSW said, “Erectile dysfunction is extremely common among Australian men and problems increase as men age, with almost all men 75 years and over in this study reporting moderate to severe erection problems”.

The study revealed that overweight men, men on lower incomes, inactive men and smokers were all more likely to have erectile dysfunction. The study also confirmed that erectile dysfunction is a common side effect of prostate cancer treatment.

“The findings are very significant because it documents how important the ageing process is on erectile function and how it interplays with various modifiable risk factors”, said Associate Professor Smith.

Previous Cancer Council NSW studies discovered that approximately 75 per cent of men have severe and persistent erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer treatment**.

“The new research provides a clear benchmark for ‘normal’ erectile dysfunction,” Associate Professor Smith said.  

 “The condition can be extremely distressing, but unfortunately it is part of the ageing process for many men and it can happen earlier or become more severe depending on an individual’s lifestyle choices. 

“These findings help us understand what can be classed as normal loss of function. This model could be used by health professionals to weigh up a patient’s potential risk of erectile dysfunction following prostate cancer treatment compared to the individuals expected loss of function (based on age and lifestyle).”

Co-author, Professor Emily Banks from the Australian National University added, “There are simple steps that can potentially reduce a man’s risk of erectile dysfunction. Current heavy smokers were 86 per cent more likely to have erection problems than non-smokers and obese men had double the risk of men in the healthy weight range. Stopping smoking, increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are all important, and will have longer lasting health benefits too, including a lower risk of cancer and heart disease”.

Associate Professor Smith added, “Men who are experiencing erectile dysfunction should see their GP to find out if there are any underlying health problems. Simple steps can then be discussed to help prevent further loss of function, and to prevent potential disease.

For further information on prostate cancer visit:


  Notes to editors:

 *108,477 men aged 45 and over, living in New South Wales, took part in this study, “The 45 and Up Study”  (

The 45 and Up Study is managed by the Sax Institute in collaboration with major partner Cancer Council NSW, the National Heart Foundation of Australia (NSW Division), NSW Health, beyondblue: the national depression and anxiety initiative; Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Department of Family and Community Services NSW; the Australian Red Cross Blood Service; and Uniting Care Ageing

 This study is one of a number of projects using data from The 45 and Up Study. Emily Banks from the Australian National University, with the National Heart Foundation of Australia (NSW Division), recently discovered that erectile dysfunction is an emerging risk marker for future cardiovascular disease events

Study: Erectile dysfunction severity as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease hospitalisation and all-cause mortality.

**Previous Cancer Council NSW studies discovered that 75 per cent of men who were treated for prostate cancer suffered erectile dysfunction after having various prostate cancer treatments. Almost all of these men never had function return.


Cancer research