The Sex Report: lifting the lid on erectile dysfunction
We asked over 1000 Britons what their experiences of sex were during the pandemic. Our findings showed we need to get better about talking about our problems.
Over the past year, many relationships have been affected by the increased stress and change caused by the pandemic and its multiple lockdowns.
One especially common problem caused by this uncertainty is suddenly being confronted with difficulties around intimacy with your partner thanks to the stress of the situation.
Here at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, we wanted to show you just how common these problems are, and how to manage them.
We recently carried out a survey of 1,057 people asking a series of questions about their sex drive in the past year. We asked what factors impacted their sexual performance, and sexual health questions they had relating to erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
Although it’s normal to experience insecurities about sexual performance, especially when you’re under stress, it’s important to have honest conversations about whether yourself or your partner may need to seek medical advice on treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) or premature ejaculation (PE).
How often are we having sex?
Being open and honest about sexual experiences and problems is unfortunately still quite taboo for lots of people. Many of us feel embarrassed to talk about sex and find it difficult to open up. Without an honest dialogue between two people, we can’t talk about what we like and don't like, and express any worries we might have about our sex lives.
In the survey we asked people how often they’re having sex and how long it usually lasts.
The survey revealed that 44% of people have sex around 1-3 times a week, with only 9% having sex every day.
When it comes to how long sexual experiences last, our survey showed that 10-20 minutes is the normal duration for most couples.
46% of people admit to having less sex in the past year and during lockdown. This might indicate that the amount of stress people have experienced in the last year has impacted sexual performance.
What affects our sex drive?
When it comes to our sex drives, there are many different factors which can impact performance.
The survey revealed that confidence, stress and mental health are huge factors which impact performance in the bedroom. Psychological factors like these are often responsible for causing ED - a fact which many people may not realise.
Lifestyle factors also impact sexual performance, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, drug use, being inactive and being overweight.
How to know when you need medical help
The survey revealed that 25% of men have experienced ED during sex and 16% have experienced PE.
However, we also understand that many couples struggle to discuss the topic openly or have all the knowledge they need to fully understand the issue.
Dr Gigi Taguri, Director of Medical Technology discusses what premature ejaculation is and how to tackle the issue head on:
'PE is the most common ejaculation problem. In July 2021 alone we prescribed over 2400 premature ejaculation treatments, making it one of our biggest clinic areas.
The causes of premature ejaculation can be varied, and can be both physical and psychological. Physical causes can include prostate disease, a thyroid condition and use of recreational drugs and alcohol.
Psychological causes include anxiety about sexual performance, anxiety, depression, problems with your sexual partner and stress. It is more likely to happen if you are young and in the early stages of a relationship, or if it has been a long time since you last ejaculated.'
There are a variety of options for treating and managing premature ejaculation:
- Behavioural techniques (find out more here)
- Condoms that contain local anaesthetic
- Prescription tablets, such as Priligy
- Local anaesthetic creams, such as EMLA
For ED, while the issue could very well be psychological, you may require a medical opinion.
There is a lot of confusion regarding the topic of erectile dysfunction, so we thought it would be a good idea to answer some of your most frequently asked questions - as well as dispel a few misconceptions.
Frequently asked questions surrounding erectile dysfunction
What are the most common causes of ED?
The most common causes of erectile dysfunction are both physical and psychological causes.
Physical causes include:
- Narrowing blood vessels - High blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes can all result in narrowed blood vessels. ED can be the first sign of these conditions, so testing for them is important.
- Hormonal imbalance - Sometimes an imbalance in hormones can cause ED. Signs of hormonal imbalance can include sudden weight gain, weight loss or reduced sex drive.
- Nerve problems - There are many conditions that affect the nerve supply, such as spinal trauma, Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis. In these situations, the nerve problem occurs prior to ED.
Psychological causes can include:
- Stress – when the brain is dealing with stress it becomes harder to remain focused on intercourse, especially as your body produces more cortisol (the body’s stress hormone)
- Trauma – in some cases, ED may stem from childhood abuse or sexual trauma
- Depression – a chemical imbalance in the brain can affect both sexual desire and function. Speak to your GP if you are experience feelings of low mood
- Relationship trouble – it may be that your sex life suffers if you are having concerns about your relationship in general
- Performance anxiety – failure to sustain an erection can be stressful in itself, causing a negative spiral
Can I buy ED treatments over the counter or do I need a prescription?
Erectile Dysfunction medicine is solely a prescription drug due to safety precautions. However, in the last few years Viagra Connect has been made available to purchase over the counter. All you need is to answer a set amount of questions from the pharmacist to be certain the drug is safe for you to use.
Which erectile dysfunction drug is best?
All medications can have different benefits depending on the individual’s needs.
Viagra is the most well-known ED drug and can last for four-six hours - but must be taken on an empty stomach.
Levitra works for a similar amount of time to Viagra, but isn’t affected by food and drink consumption so can be taken with meals.
Cialis works longer than the other two, for up to 36 hours. Many people prefer this as it involves much less planning than the first two medications, however, it also means side effects can last longer.
For more information, please consult this article.
Does ED only affect people over the age of 50?
Experiencing mild, occasional, or complete erectile dysfunction is possible at any age. However, erectile dysfunction is more common in older men.
Can ED be cured?
Erectile dysfunction can be cured but not in all cases. However, treatment can reduce or eliminate all symptoms when taken properly.
Can ED be treated with certain foods?
It has been suggested by Harvard research that consuming foods that are high in flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, could help reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction.
Some foods that are high in flavonoids are:
- Red Cabbage
- Red Wine
- Dark Chocolate
For more information about foods that can help or hinder ED, you can visit this resource.
Do I suffer from ED or am I just not attracted to someone?
Although erectile dysfunction can be due to psychological reasons such as not finding your partner attractive, this is not always the case. Erectile dysfunction can be due to a number of physical and psychological reasons.
Is ED a sign of prostate cancer?
Erectile dysfunction can be an early sign of some prostate cancers and can sometimes be an effect of certain prostate cancer treatments. However this is not always the case, erectile dysfunction can be due to many reasons but if you are worried or are experiencing other symptoms visit your doctor immediately.
Is ED a symptom of COVID-19?
Erectile dysfunction is not formally a symptom of COVID-19. However, some studies have suggested COVID-19 can effect sex drive and therefore cause erectile dysfunction in some cases. Find out more here.
Where can I get help for ED?
You can speak to your NHS GP or a sexual health clinic or consider using private services for sex therapy/medications.
How to speak to someone about sexual performance or a health problem
Sexual health problems of any nature can be incredibly difficult and awkward subjects to open up and talk to people about. 38% of people are likely to turn to their partner to talk about any sexual health issues they’re experiencing, with only 2% likely to go to a pharmacist and 18% likely to talk to a GP. Evidently, people are more inclined to talk to friends and family over a professional.
However, speaking with a professional is the best solution in this instance, as they can offer advice on the possible cause, along with advising you on the correct treatment. Although discussing with friends and your partner is a great way to open up, it may not offer you a solution on how to gain the right help.
If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of ED, it’s strongly recommended that you have a consultation with your GP, in case there is an underlying medical issue.
Alternatively, if you are considering treatment such as Viagra and Cialis without the need for a face-to-face appointment, you can have an online consultation with an NHS-experienced clinician.
The survey was carried out by LloydsPharmacy from June 25th - 21st July. Gained 1,057 responses. Mixture of men and women.