Erectile Dysfunction in Your 50s

Written by
The Manual Team
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
7th January 2022

In 30 seconds…

Men in their 50s have about a 50% chance of having experienced erectile dysfunction (the inability to achieve/sustain a hard enough erection for sex). One of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction in men over 50 is atherosclerosis, where blood flow to the penis is restricted as the result of blocked or hardened arteries.

Psychological issues such as stress, depression, and relationship problems can also cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction. However, erectile dysfunction is treatable: lifestyle changes, counselling, and/or medical treatment can all help to manage or even cure the condition.

When you hit your fifth decade, life can get quite intense. Your 40s can be a critical time for your career, with promotions or new job opportunities in the pipeline. You and your partner may be navigating your way through the rocky waters of a long-standing relationship. And, of course, there’s a good chance you have kids to care for and support, too. That’s quite a few distractions from your sex life!

But if things have been less than satisfactory in the bedroom, you don’t have to ignore it. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a very common problem as men get older, but it is treatable.

From underlying health problems to stress and depression – let’s tackle the causes behind erectile dysfunction in your 40s.

How Common is Erectile Dysfunction in Your 50s?

Erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to achieve or maintain an erection hard enough for penetrative sex, becomes more common as you get older. According to a PMJ study, about 52% of men between 40 and 70 years old experience ED at some point. That’s around 50% of men in their 50s.

It’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint the exact number of older men with ED because as they age a lot of men suffer from what you might call “erectile dissatisfaction”. When you get older, it’s likely that you’ll find that it takes longer to get an erection or it might not be quite as hard as it used to be in your 20s and 30s. Some men also find it frustrating that they can no longer get an erection spontaneously just from having a sexual fantasy.

But these changes don’t necessarily mean you have ED, where it’s not possible to get a firm enough erection for sex despite prolonged sexual contact. In addition, it’s worth bearing in mind that ED medications such as Sildenafil, branded Viagra, and Cialis/Tadalafil still need direct stimulation of the penis in order to work.

Whether you find you need treatment for ED or not, you may actually find there are unexpected benefits to embracing a slower pace for sex. As women generally need more time to become aroused than men, older men can find themselves complementing their female partners better in the bedroom – particularly by embracing techniques such as sensual massage in addition to penetrative sex.

Physical Causes of ED in Men over 50

For men in their 50s who do develop ED, the majority will find that it’s caused by an underlying physical health condition.

One of the most common causes of ED in this age group is atherosclerosis. This is a condition where your arteries become clogged with plaque, becoming harder and narrower. As a result, blood can’t flow as freely around your body, supplying your organs with the oxygen and nutrients they need. As erections depend on healthy blood flow to the penis, atherosclerosis can also lead to ED.

It’s important to note that because of this link between atherosclerosis and ED, ED can actually be an indicator of more serious health issues ahead. The NHS offers a free health check service to adults aged 40-74, which checks for cardiovascular (and other) issues. You can find out more on the NHS website.

An AMA study of 4,247 men over 55 years old found that the men who developed ED were more at risk of heart problems – such as high blood pressure, heart disease or strokes. Paying attention to what your body is telling you now could help you avoid more severe illness later on.

Other age-related health conditions can also cause or contribute to ED. These include: cancer and cancer treatments, Parkinson’s disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Psychological Causes of ED in Men over 50

While psychological issues are more likely to be behind ED in younger men, your mind can also play a role in erection problems as you get older. That’s because sexual arousal is a mental response as well as a physical one.

Work stress, relationship problems, and fatigue can all impact your sexual performance. Of course, we all have our off-days but if you find that life stresses are frequently getting in the way of fulfilling sex, you might want to stop and think about what changes you can make to address this.

You could try having sex in the morning when your energy levels are higher or giving yourself more time to relax and unwind before sex. If relationship issues are behind your ED, you might try working on improving communication and spending more quality time with your wife or partner. Perhaps even couples counselling could be a solution.

As we get older it becomes more likely that we’ll experience the loss of those close to us. For some men in their 50s that will mean coping with the death of a parent. Grief can affect many areas of your life, making them more difficult to handle, and your sex life is no exception. Seeking counselling to work through your grief could help address your ED at the same time.

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ED and Your Lifestyle

ED in your 50s can often be managed by positive lifestyle changes. Essentially, any change that improves your overall physical health (and particularly your heart health) is likely to combat your ED too.

These include:

On top of tackling your ED, these changes may have other benefits for your sex life. A fit and healthy body could increase your self-esteem and boost your confidence in the bedroom. Need we say more?

Alongside a healthy lifestyle, you may also want to try an ED treatment such as Sildenafil to help you start achieving satisfying erections again.

Sildenafil is a safe, effective medication that is taken 30-60 minutes before sex. It is a PDE5 inhibitor, meaning it inhibits the enzyme responsible for smooth muscle contraction in the blood vessels supplying the penis. This results in easier blood flow, thereby increasing the chance of a sustained firmer erection.

Important notes: Sildenafil or Viagra (and any alternative) only work if you are sexually stimulated. And ED treatment is always individualised – because different men respond to different treatments and doses. Speak to a Manual clinician today if you’re struggling with ED, and we can advise the best approach.

Key Takeaways…

ED may become more common in men over 50, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it as a fact of life forever. Whether by tackling your physical health and adopting a healthy lifestyle, seeking counselling for your mental wellbeing, or simply taking a little blue pill, you can beat ED and discover a newly fulfilling sex life.

Erections aren’t always easy for millions of men in the UK. It’s no big deal. Choose from highly effective, clinically proven solutions.

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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Erections aren’t always easy for millions of men in the UK. It’s no big deal. Choose from highly effective, clinically proven solutions.