Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a common sexual complaint, but not one that is usually associated with younger men. There are several reasons for this, but the result overall is that erectile dysfunction in younger men is both under-researched and rarely discussed when public discussions of young men's sexual health or public discussions of erectile dysfunction take place.
The main reason why erectile dysfunction in younger men isn't a common topic is that, relatively speaking, it isn't as common an issue. Multiple studies of the prevalence of erectile dysfunction among men of varying ages have demonstrated a relationship between ED and aging. As men get older, their risk of experiencing ED goes up. In a survey of erectile dysfunction in the U.S., 6.5% of men 20-29 had experienced ED compared with 77% of men over the age of 75.
It may happen in lower numbers but young men do experience erectile dysfunction, and for those who do, it is no less an issue of overall health and possibly quality of life. It's also interesting to note that the line drawn by age and erectile dysfunction is not straight. Men between the ages of 20 and 29 actually reported a higher rate of ED (6.5%) than men between the ages of 30 and 39 (3.8%). One likely explanation for this is that younger men are still learning about their erections and their ability (or inability) to control ejaculation, a learning curve that levels off in their 30s.
Assumptions About Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men
But this guess is really an assumption, and one that may need to be challenged. Because research on ED links it to other health conditions associated with aging, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, there has been an assumption that erectile dysfunction among young men is more likely to have psychological causes than physical ones. A 2006 study of young men who reported erectile dysfunction found this assumption to be false. More young men in that study (46%) were found to have physical causes of erectile dysfunction than psychological causes. A more recent study documented several risk factors for young men experiencing ED which were not primarily psychological.
The Bottom Line:
It's clear that erectile dysfunction in young men is less common than it is in old men. However, the assumption that in young men it's just a phase, or a psychological issue, should not be made. If you're experiencing erectile dysfunction at any age, you should talk with your doctor about it. ED is a known early warning sign of other health conditions and whatever the cause, there are many treatments for erectile dysfunction that are suitable for men of any age.
Casella, R., Ronci, L., Sulser, T., & Lehmann, K. "Young Men wiith Erectile Dysfunction: Too Young to be True?" European Urology Supplements Vol. 5, No. 2 (2006): 180.
Elbendary, M.A., El-Gamal, O.M., Salem, K.A. "Analysis of Risk Factors for Organic Erectile Dysfunction in Egyptian Patients Under the Age of 40 Years" Journal of Andrology Vol. 30, No. 5 (2009): 520-524.
Saigal, C.S., Wessells, H., Pace, J., et. al. "Predictors and Prevalence of Erectile Dysfunction in a Racially Diverse Population" Archives of Internal Medicine Vol. 166 (2006): 207-212.