Picture of a man and woman upset over erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is often considered a problem only older men face but this is by no means always the case.

More and more younger men are seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction and today we will be discussing some of the causes of ED when it comes to men in their 40s.

Erectile dysfunction is caused when a man is unable to get an erection or unable to sustain that erection for a long enough period of time to perform sexual intercourse.

Studies have shown that up to 40% of men in their 40s are affected by erectile dysfunction yet 75% of men who have it don’t seek treatment. [1] Part of the reason they don’t seek treatment for ED is because they don’t know what’s causing it in the first place.

Let’s take a look now at some factors that cause erectile function in men from this age bracket…


When you hit your 40s, life seems to be running at full clip. You are suddenly faced with pressing financial obligations, the multiple needs of your family, increasing demands at work and now a body that doesn’t want to cooperate. These are the things that stress out most people and it’s only natural.

This stress, though, can cause you to be unable to perform in the bedroom. When your stress levels rise, your brain releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. [2] These hormones make your blood vessels constrict and they *raise your blood pressure.

When your blood vessels constrict, the blood required for an erection simply cannot reach your sexual organ. Consequently, you can’t get an erection.

Depression and Anxiety

If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you tend to lose interest in things that once brought you pleasure. Sexual satisfaction usually goes clean out the window. Your libido begins to wane and nothing will excite or stimulate your sexual organ resulting in erectile dysfunction. It is not fully understood why this happens, but it does. [3]

This issue is rather complicated as well because it seems to go in circles. Depression and anxiety can cause erectile dysfunction but experiencing erectile dysfunction can cause depression and anxiety. If left unchecked, it can become a vicious cycle that’s extremely difficult to break out of.

Substance Abuse

Men in their 40s have generally reached the point where they are no longer drinking to excess on a regular basis and most have left recreational drugs behind. For those who are still partaking in these activities, erectile dysfunction is more likely to be a problem, especially if these substances are used to excess.

The leading cause of erectile dysfunction is alcohol abuse. When drinking alcohol, most men experience at least mild erectile dysfunction. The more alcohol that’s consumed, the higher the chance of experiencing erectile dysfunction. Studies have shown there’s a marked correlation between the consumption of alcohol and the prevalence of erectile dysfunction. [4]

In men who use illicit drugs, erectile dysfunction is a common problem as well. All illicit drugs, from marijuana to heroin, have an effect on the performance of the male sexual organ. Some of these drugs can cause the body to ignore sexual stimuli, some drugs can cause testosterone levels to *fall, [5] some can cause difficulty in maintaining erections and some can cause the inability to achieve orgasm.

Dietary Causes

As men age, their diet begins to change. Most men in their 40s have all but given up on the physique they had in their 20s and have happily settled into a new routine. Their diet typically consists of plenty of food high in sugar and salt.

An excess of these two ingredients can lead to some serious health problems. Eating a diet that’ bad for your heart can also be bad for your sex life.

  • Diabetes – With diabetes, one of the problems caused is that the endothelial system is greatly challenged. When this system is unable to function properly, it cannot deliver blood where it needs to go in the body. If blood cannot travel to the penis, an erection cannot be achieved.
  • Obesity – Being overweight can also put a damper on your ability to achieve an erection. Obesity can cause changes to sexual hormones (like testosterone) which fuel a man’s sex drive. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes which brings its own challenges to the table when it comes to erectile dysfunction. [6]
  • High Blood Pressure – The average middle-aged man has a 60% chance of developing heart disease over his lifetime. While this problem is sometimes unavoidable, diet plays a significant role in vascular health. If you have high blood pressure, your vascular system is not functioning as intended and will result in the inability to get an erection.

Anything that can affect your cardiovascular system can have an effect on your ability to achieve and sustain an erection. The reason for this is that an erection is formed mostly due to blood flow in the penis. If this blood flow is in any way obstructed, you’ll be unable to get an erection.


Most medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, come with long lists of side effects. In many of these medications, one of the listed side effects is impotence, otherwise known as erectile dysfunction.

In addition to the health issues above contributing to erectile dysfunction, the medications prescribed to treat them can sometimes also bring about the challenges of erectile dysfunction. Men are sometimes then prescribed even more medication to treat these problems.

Unfortunately, the more medication a man takes, the more likely he is to experience erectile dysfunction. [7]

In Closing

After reading this article, you can see quite clearly that there are many reasons a man in his 40s can be forced into dealing with erectile dysfunction. The variety of psychological and physical causes can be present in any man’s life as he ages and erectile dysfunction becomes a frustrating but common occurrence.

If you feel you are living with any of these health problems and seeing the signs of erectile dysfunction manifest themselves, it’s crucial to reach out to your doctor. Erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of much more serious health problems.

Take care of yourself and your whole health.


[1] Cakir O, Abstract NR (2013) The Frequencies and Characteristics of Men Receiving Medical Intervention for Erectile Dysfunction: Analysis of 6.2 Million Patients. Annual EAU Cong 126(28)

[2] Uckert S, Fuhlenriede MH, Becker AJ, Stief CG, Scheller F, Knapp WH, Jonas U (2003) Is There an Inhibitory Role of Cortisol in the Mechanism of Male Sexual Arousal and Penile Erection? Urol Res 31(6): 402-6

[3] Williams K, Reynolds MF (2006) Sexual Dysfunction in Major Depression. CNS Spectr 11(8 Suppl 9): 19-23

[4] Dachille G, Lamuraglia M, Leone M, Pagliarulo A, Palasciano G, Salerno MT, Ludovico GM (2008) Erectile Dysfunction and Alcohol Intake. Urologia 75(3): 170-6

[5] Cioe P, Freidman P, Stein M (2010) Erectile Dysfunction in Opioid Users: Lack of Association with Serum Testosterone. J Addict Dis 29(4): 455-460

[6] Kolotkin R, Sunker C, Ostbyte T (2012) Sexual Function and Obesity: A Review. Obesity (Silver Spring) 20(12): 2325-33

[7] Wein AJ, Van Arsdalen KN (1988) Drug Induced Male Sexual Dysfunction. Urol Clin North Am 15(1): 23-31

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