Erectile dysfunction predicts mortality in middle-aged and older men independent of their sex steroid status

Age Ageing. 2022 Apr 1;51(4):afac094. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afac094.


Background: erectile dysfunction is associated with mortality, whereas the association between low testosterone (T) and higher mortality remains controversial. Sexual dysfunction and low T often coexist, but the relative importance of sexual symptoms versus low T in predicting mortality is not known. We studied the interrelationships between sex steroids and sexual symptoms with all-cause mortality in a large prospective cohort of European men.

Design: survival status was assessed in 1,788 community-dwelling men, aged 40-79, who participated in the European Male Ageing Study (EMAS). Sexual symptoms were evaluated via a validated questionnaire (EMAS-SFQ). Sex steroids were measured by mass spectrometry. Cox proportional hazard models were used to study the association between hormones, sexual symptoms and mortality.

Results: about 420 (25.3%) men died during a mean follow-up of 12.6 ± 3.1 years. Total T levels were similar in both groups, but free T was lower in those who died. Men with three sexual symptoms (erectile dysfunction, reduced morning erections and lower libido) had a higher mortality risk compared with men with none of these symptoms (adjusted hazard ratio (HR) and 95% confidence intervals: 1.75 (1.28-2.40, P = 0.001)). Particularly, erectile dysfunction and poor morning erections, but not lower libido, were associated with increased mortality (HR 1.40 (1.13-1.74, P = 0.002), 1.28 (1.04-1.59, P = 0.023) and 1.12 (0.90-1.39, P = 0.312), respectively). Further adjusting for total T, free T or oestradiol did not influence the observed risk.

Conclusions: sexual symptoms, in particular erectile dysfunction, predict all-cause mortality independently of sex steroids and can be an early warning sign of a poor health status.

Keywords: Erectile dysfunction; mortality; older people; sex steroids.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Erectile Dysfunction* / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Libido
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Testosterone


  • Testosterone