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  • Christina Riley

Erectile dysfunction in your 50s


If you’re in your 50s and feel like your penis has been letting you down recently, you might be facing

erectile dysfunction (also known as ED or impotence).

How common is erectile dysfunction at 50?

‍Research shows that 50% of men in their 50s are affected by erectile dysfunction. And as you grow older, your chances of not getting it up also go up. 60% of men in their 60s and 70% of men in their 70s experience some form of ED. But we have good news: there are plenty of ways to treat ED in your 50s, and you can also take steps to reduce the risk of getting ED when you reach your older years.

Read on to find out how to strengthen and protect your erections (and continue to enjoy great sex in your 50s and beyond).

Signs of erectile dysfunction in your 50s

It’s normal to have trouble getting an erection from time to time. But if you’re regularly experiencing the following symptoms, you could have ED:

  • Not being able to get as hard as you want

  • Having a difficult time getting hard at all

  • Finding it challenging to stay hard

  • Losing your erections before you finish

Causes of erectile dysfunction in your 50s

ED can be caused by physical, psychological, and lifestyle reasons (or a mixture of all 3).

We’ve broken them down below, as we take a look at what could cause erectile dysfunction in your 50s.

Physical causes of ED in your 50s

Some physical causes of ED are:

  • Parkinson's disease

  • Diabetes

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Side effects of prescribed medication

  • Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate

  • Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord

  • Lowering testosterone levels

Other physical causes of erectile dysfunction related to blood flow are:

  • Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)

  • High cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

These health issues all restrict blood flow to your penis, making it difficult to get an erection.

Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction in 50-year-olds

If you only have erection problems some of the time, then they’re more likely to be caused by a psychological ED problem. For example, you get an erection when masturbating but not during sexual activity with someone else. Some of the psychological causes of ED in 50-year-olds are:

  • Stress

  • Relationship breakdown

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

Stress

Stress can cause ED. Being in your 50s can often bring on extra stress triggered by things like:

  • Experiencing relationship problems: arguments, break-ups, divorce, or cheating

  • Meeting new partners after a divorce or break-up: dating new people, having new sexual partners, or getting into a new relationship

  • Taking care of offspring: Raising younger children, or dealing with teenagers and adolescents

  • Trying for a baby: struggling to conceive, adopting a child, or undergoing fertility treatments

  • Changing living situations: Moving house, remortgaging a home, or relocating

  • Spotting changes in your body: more wrinkles, thinning hair, putting on weight, finding more grays, or noticing a drop in libido

  • Worrying about your family: feeling responsible for your partner and children, or caring for older parents

  • Pressures at work: being laid off, competing for promotions, or feeling dissatisfied about your career

  • Worries about money: borrowing money or taking out loans, financial pressures, or debt

  • Feelings of loneliness: if your children have left home and you’ve become an empty nester, or after losing touch with friends

  • Experiencing a ‘mid-life crisis’: feeling dissatisfied with parts of your life such as your career, relationship, or your health, and feeling like the time to achieve your goals is running short


Relationship hurdles or breakdown

Middle age divorces, sometimes known as ‘gray divorces’, are increasingly common. The rate of divorce after age 50 nearly doubled from 1990 to 2015.

Relationships ending can cause a dip in self-esteem, which can then mess with your erections.


Starting a new relationship can also lead to sexual performance anxiety (SPA). If you’re anxious about having sex with new partners, your body can go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This stress response directs blood away from your penis, so you can’t get an erection.

If your partner has had an affair or cheated, it can trigger a similar stress response when having (or thinking about having) sex in the future. The body may also go into shock after finding out about infidelity, and you can experience symptoms similar to PTSD. These reactions can cause your libido to drop, and stop the right signals being sent to your penis.


Anxiety and depression

The stresses men face in their 50s may eventually lead to stronger feelings of anxiety and depression.

Both depression and anxiety can then add to your erection issues. It can become a vicious cycle.

Lifestyle reasons for ED in your 50s

Some lifestyle reasons for having ED are:

  • Being a smoker

  • Finding it hard to get enough sleep, eat healthily, or exercise

  • Drinking too much or taking cocaine

Sudden erectile dysfunction at 50 years old

We spoke to medical doctor Matthew Chan about what can cause ED more acutely or suddenly.

In theory, many of the psychological causes listed above could occur overnight, especially after a stressful experience in or out of the bedroom.

Lifestyle factors tend to gradually impact health over time, although a heavy evening of drinking (or taking drugs), or a sleepless night could bring on erection issues quickly.

Physical ED is often caused by chronic conditions, which means it’s usually more of a gradual process.

However, a stroke, injury or trauma, or side effects from specific medication changes could all bring on erectile dysfunction suddenly.

How to tackle erectile dysfunction at age 50

Treating physical causes

Your risk of developing health conditions that can cause ED increases with age, so we’d recommend speaking to a doctor to rule out whether your ED has a physical element.


If your doctor thinks your ED is being caused by something physical, they might recommend one (or some) of the following treatments:

  • Medicine to lower blood pressure or cholesterol

  • A change to medication if your ED is being caused by medicinal side-effects

  • Vacuum pumps

  • Pills such as Viagra or Sildenafil

  • Weight loss, sleep improvement, and stress reduction for low testosterone levels

Treating psychological ED as a 50-year-old with erectile dysfunction

Psychological ED is usually treated using a mixture of these methods:

  • Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Anxiety and depression can be treated with counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Psychosexual therapy uses a mixture of methods to help you not only achieve a better overall headspace, but also help you get better erections.

  • 'Erection strengthening' training

If you’ve been experiencing sexual performance anxiety, you can use breathing techniques, meditations, and guided mindful masturbation methods.

These tools help you tackle SPA by teaching you how to control your stress responses, and get out of your head and back into your body during sex.

  • Finding a support system

One of the simplest ways to get your erections back on track is to build a support network. Opening up to your partner, a friend, or someone else you trust can almost instantly relieve some of the stress you’re feeling about your erection issues. Remember, 50% of men in their 50s have ED, so it’s likely that half your friends are struggling to get it up too.

If you’re not ready to take that step, you can anonymously connect with other men experiencing erection issues, and hear about what’s worked for them.

A new way of life for your penis

If you think your ED is lifestyle-related, then we recommend that you try to make the following changes:

  • Cutting back on any cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs

  • Eating a healthy diet

  • Doing more exercise

  • Trying to get more sleep

This doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying a glass of wine at dinner, or throw your birthday cake in the trash.


Restart your sex life

Believe it or not, you can actually enjoy the best sex of your life in your 50s.

We’re here to not only help overcome your erection issues, but also help you to regain your confidence in the bedroom, explore what turns you on, and pleasure your partner using your newfound skills.

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