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Five common myths about men’s sexual health

profile picture of James Stevenson
Lead Physician, Bupa Health Clinics
10 July 2024
Next review due July 2027

Sexual health matters. Problems with sexual function can affect both self-esteem and mental health. Many factors can lead to sexual health issues such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. These often have physical and physiological causes. Here, I’ll explore five common men’s sexual health myths – and share some top tips to improve your sexual function.

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Myth 1: Only older men experience erectile dysfunction

It can be easy to think that erectile dysfunction (ED), is an older men’s problem. But data shows that ED most commonly affects men aged 25 to 34. And, as nearly half of men in the UK experience ED at least occasionally, it’s important to know that help is available.

Occasional ED is normal and may result from sexual anxiety, alcohol, or other lifestyle factors. But, if ED is occurring regularly, or is getting worse, it’s a good idea to get help.

Treating ED should help to improve your sex life. ED can sometimes be a sign of other health conditions such as heart disease. So, getting it checked might help to reduce your risk of these issues too.

How to treat erectile dysfunction

  • Get a physical health check. If you see a doctor for ED, they should check you for signs of heart disease and diabetes, as these can sometimes prevent blood flow to your penis. Treating these conditions should improve your ED.
  • Improve your heart health. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress reduction can improve blood flow around your body, which can also help ED.
  • Know that medicines are available. A doctor can prescribe a range of treatments to help with this common condition, so don’t be embarrassed to seek help.

Myth 2: Premature ejaculation isn’t treatable

Premature ejaculation is common – with around 20 to 30 percent of men affected. And unfortunately, despite treatments existing, less than a quarter of men seek help for this condition. Premature ejaculation usually affects men between 18 to 30 years old.

Causes of premature ejaculation include:

  • thyroid problems
  • prostate issues
  • stress and anxiety
  • relationship problems

How to treat premature ejaculation

Whether your premature ejaculation is caused by physical or psychological factors, treatments are available. Sometimes, lifestyle changes such as stress management can improve premature ejaculation.

Otherwise, a doctor can prescribe treatments such as:

  • SSRIs (type of antidepressant)
  • viagra
  • topical anaesthetics (often used with condoms or lubricants)

Myth 3: Low libido in men is uncommon

Low sex drive (libido) affects around one in five men in the UK, making it a very common issue. Low libido usually impacts men more as they get older, but younger men can be affected too. One cause of low sex drive is low levels of the male sex hormone testosterone.

Other causes of low libido include:

  • low mood and other mental health issues
  • other medications (e.g. hair loss treatments)
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • poor diet
  • lack of sleep
  • cardiovascular disease

How to treat low libido

A doctor can help to treat any physical conditions that may be causing your low libido. You might find that improving your general health can help too. This could involve:

Sometimes you might need to change a medication you’re taking if it’s contributing to your low sex drive. A doctor can also prescribe hormonal treatment if you have low testosterone.

Myth 4: Medicines are the only treatment for sexual health issues

Sometimes, medicines might help with your sexual health problem – but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. There’s lots you can do to improve your sexual health without taking medication if you prefer.

Lifestyle changes can make a big improvement to issues such erectile dysfunction and low libido. The following changes can help.

  • Stay active. Try to do a combination of cardiovascular exercise such as running or cycling and strength exercise such as squats and weightlifting.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Including wholegrains, protein and healthy fats such as oily fish.
  • Sleep well. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

These changes can also improve your general health and reduce your risk of chronic disease.

Stress and anxiety can play a big role in sexual function, so try to find ways to reduce stress where possible. Yoga and mindfulness can help to reduce anxiety and stress for some people.

Relationship counselling may also improve your sexual health. A couple’s therapist can help to reduce sources of stress and anxiety within your relationship – which can help issues such as low libido.

Myth 5: It’s embarrassing to seek help for sexual health problems

There is no need to be embarrassed about seeking support for your sexual health. Doctors are used to seeing these type of issues and will be more than happy to help you. Sometimes it can be hard to know when to seek help. Below we’ve listed some situations when you could consider getting some support.

When to seek help for your sexual health

There is lots of help available for sexual health issues, so you don’t need to suffer in silence. You might like to get help and support for your sexual health in the following situations if:

  • your sexual function issue has been happening for more than a couple of weeks
  • you are struggling to get or maintain an erection
  • you’re ejaculating prematurely (sooner than you would like)
  • you’ve noticed a change in your libido
  • your sexual function is causing you distress or worry

We offer a range of sexual health services within our Bupa Health Centres. So whether you have symptoms and need to speak to a GP or don't have symptoms but want a check to see if you currently have an STI we have a check to suit you. Any customers who test positive receive a follow up with a GP and support from our 24/7 Nurse HealthLine. Learn more today.

profile picture of James Stevenson
Dr James Stevenson (he/him)
Lead Physician, Bupa Health Clinics

 

Co-author

Julia Ebbens, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

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    • Premature ejaculation. The British association of urological surgeons. Baus.org.uk, published March 2024
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    • Rizk PJ, Kohn TP, Pastuszak AW, et al. Testosterone therapy improves erectile function and libido in hypogonadal men. Curr Opin Urol. 2017;27(6):511-515 doi: 10.1097/MOU.0000000000000442
    • Lemay V, Hoolahan J, Buchanan A. Impact of a Yoga and Meditation Intervention on Students' Stress and Anxiety Levels. Am J Pharm Educ. 2019 ;83(5):7001. doi: 10.5688/ajpe7001

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