Low Sexual Satisfaction in Middle Age May Serve as an Early Warning Sign for Future Cognitive Decline

A study, which tracked associations between erectile function, sexual satisfaction and cognition in hundreds of men aged 56 through 68, found that declines in sexual satisfaction and erectile function were correlated with future memory loss.

The study explored the relationship between physical changes like the microvascular changes relevant for erectile function, and psychological changes, such as lower sexual satisfaction, to determine how the changes relate to cognition. They examined the shifts starting in middle age because it represents a transition period where declines in erectile function, cognition and sexual satisfaction begin to emerge.

“Scientists have found that if you have low satisfaction generally, you are at a higher risk for health problems like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and other stress-related issues that can lead to cognitive decline,” he said. “Improvements in sexual satisfaction may actually spark improvement in memory function. We tell people they should get more exercise and eat better foods. We’re showing that sexual satisfaction also has importance for our health and general quality of life.” says Sliwinski 

The study found that decreases in erectile function and sexual satisfaction were both associated with memory decline, which the researchers say points to a connection between psychological and physical health.

“When we mapped the relationship over time, we found increases or decreases in erectile function and sexual satisfaction were associated with concurrent increases or decreases in cognitive function,” Slayday said. “These associations survived adjustment for demographic and health factors, which tells us there is a clear connection between our sex lives and our cognition.”

Increasing the assessment and monitoring of erectile function as a vital sign of health may help identify those at risk of cognitive decline before their 70s, he said. 

“We already have a pill for treating erectile dysfunction. What we don’t have is an effective treatment for memory loss,” Sliwinski said. “Instead of the conversation being about treating ED, we should see that as a leading indicator for other health problems and also focus on improving sexual satisfaction and overall well-being, not just treating the symptom.”


Riki E Slayday, Tyler R Bell, Michael J Lyons, Teresa S Warren , BA, Rosemary Toomey, Richard Vandiver, Martin J Sliwinski, William S Kremen, Carol E Franz. Erectile Function, Sexual Satisfaction, and Cognitive Decline in Men From Midlife to Older Adulthood. The Gerontologist, 2023; 63 (2): 382 DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnac151

Penn State. “Low sexual satisfaction linked to memory decline later in life.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/05/230530125414.htm>.

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