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Gay and bi men are giving up on sex and relationships due to erectile dysfunction (ED), shocking new research says.
In its survey, online doctor service Zava found that more than half of gay or bi men (56%) experience ED – at even higher rates than straight men (46%).
For one in four gay or bi men, it’s an issue most or every time they’re with a partner. More worryingly, it has led 21% of those affected to become celibate altogether.
When asked what they thought the causes of their ED were, queer men feel that pressure to perform was the leading cause. This cause ranks higher than drinking too much or the side effects of medications known to cause ED, such as antidepressants. Other causes given include body insecurities, stress from work, and mental health issues.
The effects of ED reach beyond the bedroom, however, affecting relationships too. For 14%, ED has been a contributing factor in a breakup.
Like mental health issues, it seems men are not talking about their ED. Fewer than one in three men (29%) who experienced ED have confided in their partner, instead making excuses to avoid sex. The most common excuses include being tired from work, feeling unwell, or being too drunk.
A third of men (32%) don’t tell anyone about the condition as they don’t think there’s a solution, and only one in five (21%) seek help from a healthcare professional.
Dr Kathryn Basford, GP at Zava, said: ‘ED is traditionally seen as an older man’s condition but in reality men of any age can be affected and our recent study proves this.
‘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 when it comes to sex. Whatever the potential causes, it’s always worth having a conversation with a healthcare professional, be that online or in person.’
What can I try to alleviate 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 that 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.’
Dr Basford’s top tips
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, five times a week.
Have a medical check-up: 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.
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 medication available on the Zava website.
For more information on ED treatment including thealternatives to Viagra, read Dr Kathryn Basford’s advice.