Giving Up On Love: Celibacy For Millions Due To Erectile Dysfunction


  • 11.7 million UK men experience erectile dysfunction, leading 2.5 million to give up on sex altogether
  • 1 million UK breakups caused by erectile dysfunction
  • Many mistakenly believe that “there’s no solution”, but doctors at ZAVA are urging men to come forward with their concerns

Thursday 2 May 2019, London UK: Men in the UK are giving up on sex and relationships due to erectile dysfunction.

According to new research from UK-based online doctor service ZAVA, 11.7 million men in the UK experience erectile dysfunction (ED), and for 1 in 8 (12%) it’s an issue every time they have sex*.

This has led 1 in 5 of those affected, or 2.5 million men, to give up on sex altogether**.

But the impact of ED is not just confined to the bedroom, for 2 million men it has impacted on their relationship more widely and is a contributing factor in 1 million breakups***.

This could be because men are keeping these issues to themselves. Less than 1 in 3 men who have experienced ED confided in their partner, instead giving other reasons to avoid having sex. The most common excuses include being tired from work, feeling unwell, feeling too tired from exercising, or being too drunk.

Traditionally seen as an older man’s concern, younger men are also being affected. Over half of men aged 25 to 34 (58%) have struggled to get or maintain an erection, and for 1 in 5 this happens every time they are with a partner. This has resulted in almost half (47%) of this age group avoiding sex due to worries about their performance.

When it comes to the causes of ED, it’s clear that many of the factors are psychological. 1 in 5 men with ED say that performance anxiety or pressure to perform have affected their ability to get an erection. A similar number cite work stress, mental-health concerns including anxiety and depression, and insecurities about their body as contributing to the condition****.

But with less than 1 in 3 (28%) seeking help from a health professional and even more (35%) telling no one as they “don’t think there’s a solution”, experts at ZAVA are urging men to speak to a medical professional. ZAVA offers both a fast and discreet medical advice and treatment service, meaning that men have more options than ever to share their health concerns.

Dr Kathryn Basford, GP at ZAVA said: “Erectile dysfunction is traditionally seen as an older man’s concern but our latest research supports what we are seeing in our customers — that men of any age can be affected.

Men today are under rising pressure to ‘perform’. Worry about living up to male stereotypes, insecurity about their bodies, and wider stresses can all play a part in the bedroom. Whatever the potential causes, it's always worth having a conversation with a doctor, be that online or in person.

What can I do to avoid ED?

Here, ZAVA’s Dr Kathryn Basford advises men on what to do if they’re concerned about ED.

“There are many potential causes of ED, which means there are also lots of treatment options, both medical and lifestyle-based. Everyone’s different, so you may want to try a few alternative options to see what works for you.”

A healthy lifestyle: some men find they can improve their symptoms by making lifestyle changes like eating a balanced diet that’s high in fibre, stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol (particularly before sex).

Exercise: regular exercise can help improve the blood flow around your body, as well as help with self-confidence and maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week.

Have a medical checkup: some medical conditions or medications can cause ED, or make it worse. ED can also be a symptom of other medical conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, so it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor who can look at your health as a whole.

It's good to talk: our research shows that many men aren’t talking about their concerns, which could be making things worse. Try chatting to your partner or a healthcare professional. Counselling can also help, especially if your ED is caused by stress, anxiety or another mental-health condition. There’s a summary on our site about the impact of ED on mental health.

Try medication: for many men medications called PDE-5 inhibitors can work. The most well known of these are Viagra, Sildenafil or Cialis, but there are other options available. Medication isn’t suitable for everyone, so it’s worth speaking to your doctor about your particular circumstances first. Read more about the medications available to treat ED.

For more information on ED treatment, including the alternatives to Viagra, read Dr Kathryn Basford’s advice.

Notes to Editors

Research conducted by Intrinsic Insight among 2,000 UK men aged 18+, April 2019.

* 46% of men report experiencing ED (UK male adult population is 25,426,579, 46% = 11,696,226)

** 20% of men affected by ED said it meant that they had stopped having sex altogether = 2,542,658

*** 50% of men have been affected by erectile concerns. Of these, 16% said it had negatively affected their relationship (2,034,126) and 8% (1,017,063) said it had contributed to a breakup

**** 17% said work stress has affected their ability to get or maintain an erection. 13% said mental-health concerns affected it and 9% said insecurities about their body did

Further reading for reference available:

10 Simple Tips to Combat Male Infertility (February 2019)

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