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What Age Does a Man Stop Getting Hard?

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 08/15/2021

Updated 01/18/2024

Getting older is a privilege, but often has some unwanted side effects on your body — your eyesight might start to go, your joints may be feeling creaky and maybe your hair is going gray, among other things.

Which brings us to a couple forms of an age-old question — at what age does a man stop getting hard? When does the oft-dreaded erectile dysfunction (ED) kick in? Should you start stocking up on Viagra® as soon as you hit 50?

First off, it’s safe to say that ED is one of the most common forms of sexual dysfunction, with an estimated 30 million men in the United States affected to some degree. So if you’re finding it difficult to get ready for sexual activity, you’re not alone.

But the exact cause of your erectile dysfunction makes a difference as to what age your sexual function might start to be affected.

We’ll explore the causes of age-related erectile dysfunction, how to deal with ED and answer the big question: at what age do men need Viagra?

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Before we dive into what age ED starts, what defines “getting hard?”

Erectile dysfunction occurs when a man is unable to get or keep an erection that allows for penetrative sexual intercourse.

Here’s the thing though — erectile dysfunction can happen at any age (it’s not just for the old guys). So if you’re asking “at what age does a man stop getting hard?” the answer will likely vary from person to person. Some people in their 20s have difficulty getting an erection. And some people in their 80s don’t.

However, like many other medical conditions, the risk of developing ED increases as men get older. Research shows that age is one of the factors most closely linked to ED, so the older you are, the more at risk you are of developing erectile dysfunction (but that still doesn’t mean it happens to everyone).

Erectile dysfunction becomes a particularly common issue after age 70, with a prevalence rate of between 50 and 100 percent in this age group.

Other research has shown similar numbers. For example, a scientific review from 2017 noted that a man in his 40s has a 40 percent chance of developing some form of erectile dysfunction, with this risk increasing by 10 percent each additional decade.

And yet another study found that ED is quite common in men 50 years and older, and specifically that more than 75 percent of men 75 years and older are affected.

There are several causes of erectile dysfunction, from physical to mental and more, meaning there’s not one most likely reason behind the link between older age and ED. Many of the physical conditions that affect your ability to get an erection tend to develop in your 40s and beyond.

It’s important to note that age isn’t the only factor that affects your risk of developing erectile dysfunction, nor does getting older guarantee that you’ll eventually need to deal with difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. 

However, age is very closely associated with other health issues that can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction.

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As mentioned above, if you start to develop some form of erectile dysfunction as you get older, you’re not alone. What’s more, ED can show up in different ways for different men — and sometimes even in different ways for the same man. 

For example, some men are only occasionally able to get an erection when they want to have sex. Others can get hard without difficulties, but find it challenging to maintain an erection for long enough to enjoy satisfying sexual activity. 

For men with severe erectile dysfunction, just getting an erection at any time can be difficult or impossible.

There are many health-related factors that can contribute to erectile dysfunction, from psychological causes of ED to medications to underlying health conditions.

Some lifestyle choices — such as being sedentary, smoking or drinking an excessive amount of alcohol — can also contribute to ED as you get older.

Physical Causes of ED

Many chronic diseases and medical conditions can contribute to ED, including high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease (or heart disease) and diabetes — and the risk of all of these conditions increases as you get older.

Erections are all about healthy nerve function and blood flow. When you feel sexually aroused, your nerves send messages that help the smooth muscles in the arteries that supply blood to the penis relax. This stimulates more blood flow, allowing the erectile tissue inside your penis to expand and become firmer.

Without proper nerve function and healthy blood vessels, getting and maintaining an erection is much more difficult. 

Many conditions that affect blood flow become more common as you grow older, particularly as you enter your 40s and 50s.

It’s common for your vascular system to gradually change as you age, which makes conditions like high blood pressure, a known contributor to erectile dysfunction, more common in older people. 

In fact, findings from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) show that over 74 percent of those 60 and older experience hypertension.

Another age-related health issue that can cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction is diabetes. Men with diabetes are three times more likely to develop erectile dysfunction, largely because of the negative effects that diabetes can have on blood flow and nerve function throughout your body.

In addition to cardiovascular health issues and diseases such as diabetes, age-related changes in your production of certain hormones might affect your sexual performance and make it harder to maintain a healthy sex life. 

For example, it’s common to experience a gradual decline in your production of testosterone as you grow older, usually starting between ages 30 to 40.

Low testosterone levels can negatively affect your sexual function in several ways, including reducing your sex drive and contributing to erectile dysfunction.

Medications and Erectile Dysfunction

In addition to physical health problems, some medications can affect your ability to develop and maintain an erection. These include:

  • Medications for high blood pressure

  • Medications for prostate cancer

  • Antidepressants

  • Anxiety medications

  • Prescription sleeping pills or sedatives 

  • Appetite suppressants

  • Ulcer medications

As you get older, it’s common to use more medications on a daily basis, including certain drugs that may affect your sex drive, erectile function and general sexual health.

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Other Causes of ED

Other issues that may cause erectile dysfunction include mental health disorders and lifestyle factors. 

Psychological issues that can contribute to ED include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and stress.

Lifestyle factors that may cause or contribute to ED include smoking, consuming an excessive amount of alcohol, using recreational drugs, having a sedentary daily life and having overweight or obesity.

Even insufficient sleep, disrupted sleep and sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia may affect your sexual function.

Our full guide to the causes of erectile dysfunction goes into more detail about the factors that can affect your erections and sexual function.

Regardless of your age, effective erectile dysfunction treatments are available. They may include medication, therapy and certain lifestyle changes to your lifestyle to improve your sexual health and function.

ED Medications

Currently, there are several evidence-based erectile dysfunction medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many of these medications are phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5 inhibitors), which work by increasing blood flow to your penis. This can make getting and maintaining an erection easier when you’re sexually aroused.

Currently, the following medications are available to treat ED:

  • Sildenafil. The active ingredient in Viagra, sildenafil (generic Viagra) can be taken at least 30 minutes to one hour prior to sex and provides relief from erectile dysfunction for around four hours per dose.

  • Tadalafil. The active ingredient in Cialis®, tadalafil is a long-lasting ED medication that can provide relief from ED for up to 36 hours — an effect that’s earned it the nickname of the “weekend” pill.

  • Vardenafil. The active ingredient in Levitra®, vardenafil starts working quickly and offers relief from ED for slightly longer than sildenafil.

  • Stendra®. Containing avanafil, Stendra is a new, fast-acting ED medication that’s less likely to cause certain side effects than older ED medications.

For a more convenient option with the same effective ingredients, chewable ED meds are also available as hard mints.

If you’re looking for more easy ways to increase blood flow to your penis for improved sexual function, check out our tips.

Therapy

Psychological ED can happen no matter how old you are. If this is the cause of your sexual dysfunction, it may be helpful to speak with a mental health professional.

Many mental health issues that contribute to ED, such as sexual performance anxiety and depression, can be treated with talk therapy. Your mental health provider may suggest taking part in therapy on its own, or participating in therapy while using medication to treat your symptoms. 

We offer a range of online therapy for issues such as anxiety, clinical depression and stress, including psychiatry and online therapy.

Lifestyle Changes for ED

If you have mild or moderate ED, making certain changes to your lifestyle may help you get and keep an erection without the use of medication. Try to:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a significant risk factor for ED, particularly due to its close association with health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. If you are overweight or obese, try to lose weight. Although the measurement of body mass index (BMI) is far from perfect, aiming for a BMI in the healthy range is generally a good way to reduce your risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction.

  • Exercise regularly. While there’s no need to train like an athlete, staying active is an important part of preventing erectile dysfunction. Studies have even shown that men with ED due to blood flow issues often experience improvements after exercising. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and at least two sessions of resistance training per week for better physical health.

  • Quit smoking. Smoking can affect your cardiovascular health and potentially increase your risk of dealing with erectile dysfunction. If you smoke, try your hardest to cut down on your cigarette consumption and eventually kick the habit completely.

  • Get enough sleep. Getting a good night’s rest is another step you can take to reduce erectile dysfunction. Adults are recommended to get seven or more hours of sleep each night.

Another way to ensure your sexual health is in tip-top shape and to prevent ED is to eat a balanced diet full of healthy foods. While there’s no specific healthy diet for ED, we have covered some foods that may improve your sexual dysfunction.

We’ve also discussed how to get hard after 65, as well as ways to maintain an erection and improve your erectile health and quality of life without medication.

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Getting older comes with some fun and some not-so-fun effects — although sometimes it seems like more of the not-so-fun effects. One of the not-fun effects of getting older is the possibility of getting erectile dysfunction. But do all men get ED as they get older?

  • At what age do guys have trouble getting hard? While it’s not a universal fact that all older men experience ED, many men have sexual dysfunction after the age of 70 — and it can start much earlier.

  • Many of the causes of ED, including health conditions like obesity, diabetes or heart disease, have an increased chance of happening as people get older. That’s a big reason why your chances of experiencing ED increase as you get older.

  • Fortunately, there are effective treatment options for ED, even for people who are older. Medications that increase blood flow (known as PDE5 inhibitors) are an effective option, along with therapy and healthy lifestyle choices.

We offer several erectile dysfunction medications online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

18 Sources

  1. Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction - NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
  2. Sooriyamoorthy, T., Leslie, S.W. Erectile Dysfunction. [Updated 2023 May 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/
  3. Zhang, K., Xu, B., Liu, D. F., Wang, X. F., Zhu, J. C., Jin, J., & Jiang, H. (2014). Medical management of erectile dysfunction in aging males: is it too late to treat?. Asian journal of andrology, 16(1), 153–156. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3901875/
  4. Ferrini, M. G., Gonzalez-Cadavid, N. F., & Rajfer, J. (2017). Aging related erectile dysfunction-potential mechanism to halt or delay its onset. Translational andrology and urology, 6(1), 20–27. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5313305/
  5. Saigal CS, Wessells H, Pace J, Schonlau M, Wilt TJ, Urologic Diseases in America Project. Predictors and Prevalence of Erectile Dysfunction in a Racially Diverse Population. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(2):207–212. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/409619
  6. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction - NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  7. Selvin, E., Burnett, A. L., & Platz, E. A. (2007). Prevalence and Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction in the US. The American Journal of Medicine, 120(2), 151-157. Retrieved from https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(06)00689-9/fulltext
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  9. Rajfer J. (2000). Relationship between testosterone and erectile dysfunction. Reviews in urology, 2(2), 122–128. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476110/
  10. Moon, K. H., Park, S. Y., & Kim, Y. W. (2019). Obesity and Erectile Dysfunction: From Bench to Clinical Implication. The world journal of men's health, 37(2), 138–147. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6479091/
  11. Cho, J. W., & Duffy, J. F. (2019). Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Sexual Dysfunction. The world journal of men's health, 37(3), 261–275. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6704301/
  12. Zhang, K., Xu, B., Liu, D. F., Wang, X. F., Zhu, J. C., Jin, J., & Jiang, H. (2014). Medical management of erectile dysfunction in aging males: is it too late to treat?. Asian journal of andrology, 16(1), 153–156. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3901875/
  13. Dhaliwal, A., Gupta, M. PDE5 Inhibitors. [Updated 2023 Apr 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  14. Smith, B.P., Babos, M. Sildenafil. [Updated 2023 Feb 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK558978/
  15. Gerbild, H., Larsen, C. M., Graugaard, C., & Areskoug Josefsson, K. (2018). Physical Activity to Improve Erectile Function: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies. Sexual medicine, 6(2), 75–89. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5960035/
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Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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