Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition that makes it difficult to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex. While it’s more common in older men, it also affects a sizable percentage of younger men.

ED in younger men may be caused by or related to an underlying physical or psychological condition. Being proactive about getting a diagnosis and starting treatment, if necessary, is a wise move at any age.

In this article, we’ll explore why ED can happen in your 30s and what you can do about it.

It’s possible to experience mild, occasional, or complete erectile dysfunction at any age. While a lot of research has been done on the topic, estimates of how many men experience ED vary.

A 2004 study of about 27,000 men found that 11 percent of men in their 30s had ED. A smaller 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine put the estimate a little higher — about 1 in 4 men under age 40 was found to have some form of ED.

While dated, the Massachusetts Male Aging Study is still commonly cited in discussions of ED prevalence. It found that at age 40, about 17 percent of men experienced at least mild ED.

The variation among studies may be due to a number of factors, such as differences among the screening tools and questionnaires used by researchers. What research does agree on, however, is that ED risk tends to increase with age.

One of the main reasons ED risk increases with age is because erectile function depends on bodily systems that tend to change with age.

For example, an enlarged prostate is common among older men and is occasionally a contributor to ED and ejaculation problems. As the prostate gets bigger, it can squeeze the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen.

Advancing age is also associated with lower levels of testosterone, an important hormone in male sexual function, and poorer circulation, which can affect sexual function and most aspects of physical health.

Among younger men, the causes of ED are often related to lifestyle and general health. Some of these factors include:

Other physical causes can include high blood pressure and hormonal disorders such as low testosterone.

ED can also be caused by psychological or emotional issues, such as:

These issues can affect your hormones and nervous system, which play very important roles in achieving and maintaining an erection.

Performance anxiety can also contribute to ED, especially if you’ve experienced ED previously and are worried about it happening again.

Regardless of the cause, ED is often treatable with the help of a doctor and some healthy lifestyle changes.

If you experience ED occasionally or frequently, let your doctor know. The conversation may cover some very personal territory, including:

  • your sexual history
  • your recent sexual activity
  • any relationship problems you may be having
  • questions about your physical and mental health

You may be advised to consult a urologist, who specializes in male and female urinary tract health and male reproductive health.

Your doctor will likely ask you to describe your symptoms and do a physical exam. Then, they’ll review your treatment options.

Prescription medications

First-line treatments for ED include oral medications, such as sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis). In the United States, these medications are available only by prescription and may not be covered by insurance.

If available, taking a generic form of an ED medication may help bring down the cost.

Oral medications work by encouraging blood flow to the penis in response to sexual stimulation. They may cause side effects. Your doctor may treat you for an underlying health condition and suggest lifestyle changes before prescribing oral medications.


If you don’t want to take a prescription medication, you may want to try an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment. Several herbal supplements, such as L-arginine and yohimbe, may be helpful, though they aren’t approved by the FDA.

If you decide to go this route, be sure to talk to your doctor first. They can help you figure out whether there’s an underlying condition causing ED, and if OTC treatments are safe for you.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes may also improve sexual function, especially if you’re younger. For example, your doctor may suggest the following:

Other treatment options

In some cases, your doctor may suggest different types of treatment. These can include:

ED can be a difficult and emotional topic to discuss with a partner. Being calm and matter-of-fact about it may help you both deal with it in a proactive and positive way. As with any relationship challenge, one key to getting through it is healthy communication.

Be open and honest about how you’re feeling, and invite your partner to do the same. Leave space for your partner to ask any questions, and don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned about ED. This can help alleviate any concerns or misconceptions about the cause of ED.

Erectile dysfunction can be disruptive, especially when it occurs in young men. And because ED has so many potential causes, it can sometimes take a little detective work to find its origin and develop an effective treatment plan.

Be patient and ask for patience from your partner. Remember that ED is a common condition, and it’s usually treatable. Talk with your doctor to figure out the best treatment plan for you.