Is erectile dysfunction linked to income? It appears to be, but the cause may not be what you think. A new study finds that men who are married to women who make more than they do are more likely to use drugs to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) than are men who bring home the bigger pay check.
The results of the study are based on information gathered in Denmark and included data collected from more than 200,000 married couples. Researchers also found that wives who earned more than their husbands were more likely to experience insomnia and to use anti-anxiety drugs. These residual effects also applied to men in the study.
Overall, the reviewers’ findings indicate that emotional factors can have a significant impact on erectile dysfunction. They also suggest that healthcare providers and counselors should consider these issues when confronted by men who are dealing with erectile dysfunction.
Why are these findings important? They are important because they highlight two growing trends in society: women who make more than their husbands, and changing roles of males in society.
Traditionally, men associate masculinity and virility with being the main breadwinner of a household. As this role changes, it appears to be affecting how men respond behind closed doors.
However, when that role is threatened or destroyed, it can have a negative impact on a man’s ability to achieve an erection. Interestingly, the authors of the study reported that these findings did not apply to unmarried couples or to men who made less than their wives before they were married.
Other psychological erectile dysfunction causes
Approximately 10 to 20 percent of all men who experience erectile dysfunction can point to psychological factors as the cause. Psychological causes of ED are often a secondary reaction to a physical reason for problems with erectile function. Therefore, causes of ED can be a combination of both physical and psychological issues.
Some of the more common psychological erectile dysfunction causes are listed here.
- Anxiety. Men who have already experienced problems achieving an erection can become anxious and worried they will fail again. This feeling often results in performance anxiety or a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Depression. This psychological cause can work two ways: men may become depressed because they are experiencing erectile dysfunction, or the depression may be established and the erectile dysfunction is a side effect of their mental state.
- Indifference. Some men become indifferent about sex. Although this may occur because of a physical reason (e.g., low testosterone, use of certain medications), it also may be associated with relationship problems.
- Poor self-esteem. Men who feel inadequate or who lack self-confidence related to their sexual abilities or other areas of their lives (e.g., loss of job) may experience erectile dysfunction.
- Stress. Many men are burdened by stress in their lives related to work, relationship difficulties, problems with children, and financial worries. One side effect of that stress can be erectile dysfunction.
Some men may feel embarrassed about getting help for sexual problems. However, erectile dysfunction treatment associated with psychological issues, which includes counseling from a trained mental health professional, can be beneficial. Men are encouraged to include their spouse or partner in the treatment process.
Read more in our Erectile Dysfunction Health Center.
Pierce L et al. In sickness and in wealth. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 2013; 39(3)