Dr Hilary Jones: Men need to talk about erectile dysfunction

The TV doctor says we shouldn’t feel awkward about something so important. By Imy Brighty-Potts.

Imy Brighty-Potts
Friday 09 June 2023 08:00 BST
The TV medic wants men to open up about erectile dysfunction (Ian West/PA)
The TV medic wants men to open up about erectile dysfunction (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)

Dr Hilary Jones says it’s important that men talk about erectile dysfunction – as it could be a sign of other underlying health problems.

The GP and TV medic wants to encourage people suffering from the issue to see their doctor, as it could be a symptom of diabetes, heart disease or other health problems that need to be properly treated.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is particularly common as men get older, and is believed to affect half of men over 40 and around 26% of men under 40.

Yet it is often still a taboo, and as Jones – speaking as an adviser to the Eroxon ED Information Panel (EEDIP) – points out, men are “much less likely to go to see a doctor about something below the waist”.

Here’s a look at some of the wider health issues that could be linked with erectile dysfunction…

Heart problems

Men’s health and sexual function specialist Dr Anand Patel says heart problems are a potential cause of ED, particularly for older men.

“Doctors often say it is a heart problem until proven otherwise as you get older, due to the narrowing of blood vessels and damaging of nerves,” Patel explains. “The penis is a blood sac, if your heart isn’t working properly, you won’t be able to fill your penis.” 


Jones says erectile dysfunction “can be a symptom of diabetes” in some cases. So, it’s important to get any warning signs checked out, especially if you have a family history.

“We know that diabetes is often present for some considerable time before a diagnosis is made – the symptoms creep up on somebody, and through that time there is damage being done to circulation, blood vessels and nerves. The longer a diagnosis is delayed, the greater the risk of damage,” Jones explains.

Mental health problems

Erectile dysfunction can also be linked with mental health conditions, including severe and chronic stress. Certain mental health medications can also cause the problem, while ED itself can take a toll on a person’s mental wellbeing too.

“There have been cases where men are tortured by their perceived failure to maintain erection, they feel emasculated. Some men find this very difficult to deal with or talk about,” says Jones, who notes that erectile dysfunction can trigger depression in some cases.

Urging anyone affected to seek support, he reassures that ED “is eminently treatable – it is not something you need to suffer with in silence”.


Jones adds: “Increasing age is a major factor, as is obesity. Men who are obese have a three times greater risk of suffering from ED.”

Obesity can also be a risk factor for diabetes and heart problems, so it’s important to bear it in mind when it comes to overall health.


Both drug and alcohol misuse could be causing ED, says Patel. Plus, there’s another addiction that may also be to blame…

“We are now seeing the influence of porn,” says Jones. “For younger men, one of the reasons for this increase in ED is exposure to pornography over longer periods. A third of men are watching porn once a week, one in eight on most days, and in those aged 18-29 almost every day.

“The Kinsey Institute has introduced this new classification, pornography-induced ED, which is due to unrealistic expectations in the real world, and huge pressure on men to perform ‘normally’. Pornography is not real,” he adds.

If you are struggling with erectile dysfunction, there are numerous treatments available. Seek advice from your doctor.

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