It is believed that over 50% of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 suffer from erectile dysfunction. Recent research in eight countries has focused on whether this condition also affects their productivity in the workplace.
A 1995 study estimated that 152 million men worldwide were suffering from erectile dysfunction at that time. The researchers assumed then that this number would increase to 322 million by 2025.
Due to the global rise in erectile dysfunction, the authors of a recent study were interested in the extent to which the issues of workplace productivity, limitations in general activities, and health-related quality of life were affected. They relied on data from the USA, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, France, China, and Brazil.
Previous studies have looked at how erectile dysfunction can have a negative impact on the overall quality of life, but there have been few studies on workplace productivity. The researchers in the current study said they wanted to develop a more robust, consistent approach to assessing the effects of erectile dysfunction on everyday life.
For their research, the researchers used questionnaires to interview 52,697 men between the ages of 40 and 70 about symptoms of erectile dysfunction within the previous six months, impairments related to work and other areas, and self-assessment on quality of life.
The survey also considered factors such as age, income, work activity, marital status, education, general health, BMI, tobacco & alcohol consumption, and other health issues.
Productivity at work was assessed using a questionnaire that included factors such as absenteeism for health reasons. In all countries considered, an average of 49.7% of respondents was affected by erectile dysfunction. The prevalence ranged from 45.2% in the UK to 54.7% in Italy.
According to the survey results, men with erectile dysfunction were more likely to be overweight, have a tobacco addiction, have excessive alcohol consumption and a lack of exercise. This group was also more likely to have other medical problems. As all these factors can have an impact on productivity at the workplace, the researchers also considered them in their analysis.
With regard to other variables, the research team found that erectile problems had a significant impact on work productivity. The authors wrote: "After the covariate check, men with erectile dysfunction in the US had significantly more impairments. In terms of workplace productivity, these impairments were 2.11 times higher than for men without erectile dysfunction." This was most noticeable in the UK, where productivity was 2.66 times more likely to be affected.
In all eight countries, men with erectile dysfunction lost more working time to illness in the last seven days than those without (7.1% vs. 32%). The situation was similar for overwork (e.g. excessive presence in the workplace) with 22.5% vs. 10.1%.
The researchers summarised: "Missing office hours, excessive presence at work, general loss of productivity and impairment of other activities were more than twice as high for men with erectile dysfunction as for men without erectile dysfunction".
According to the survey results, the quality of life perceived by men with erectile problems was also lower in all the regions surveyed. Co-author Wing Yu Tang noted: "The study shows that erectile dysfunction remains a major problem. It affects both productivity at the workplace and absenteeism due to illness".
Tarek Hassan, the lead author of the study, added: "As the data come from eight different countries, our results suggest that this issue is of great importance worldwide.”
Despite extensive research, the study also has some limitations. It is possible, for example, those test persons made false statements in their self-assessment. In addition, statements were made on a five-point scale and participants who assessed themselves in the range of 2-5 were classified as men with erectile dysfunction.
Moreover, since the researchers considered a variety of criteria, it was not possible to conclude 100% whether erectile dysfunction was responsible for the drop in productivity at the workplace. Despite its limitations, the Pfizer-funded study has great potential. As erectile dysfunction cases are on the rise, it is important to understand how the problem affects personal and social life.
Goldstein I et al, The association of erectile dysfunction with productivity and absenteeism in eight countries globally. International Journal of Clinical Practice 2019; https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcp.13384