Introduction: Alcohol consumption is a contentious social topic and is often assumed to have deleterious effects on sexual performance. There is a lack of consensus on whether alcohol consumption may in fact be beneficial to erectile function.
Aim: We examined the data from a population-based cross-sectional study of men's health to assess the association between usual alcohol consumption and erectile dysfunction (ED).
Method: Reply-paid questionnaires were posted to a randomly selected age-stratified male population sample obtained from the Western Australian (WA) Electoral Roll.
Main outcome measures: The survey questionnaire included sociodemographic details, self-reported clinical information, and drinking habits. The 5-item International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF-5) was used to assess erectile function.
Results: Most (87%) participants were current alcohol drinkers, with binge drinking, as defined by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), reported by 20% of drinkers. Compared with never-drinkers, the age-adjusted odds of ED were lower among current, weekend, and binge drinkers and higher among ex-drinkers. Among current drinkers, the odds were lowest for consumption within the NHMRC guidelines of between 1 and 20 standard drinks a week. On further adjustment for cardiovascular disease (CVD) or for cigarette smoking, age-adjusted odds of ED were reduced by 25-30% among alcohol drinkers.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest a modest negative association between alcohol consumption and ED and confounding of the association by CVD and cigarette smoking. The Western Australia Men's Health Study certainly provides no justification for advising men with ED whose drinking habits are consistent with NHMRC guidelines that they should cease or reduce their consumption of alcohol.