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"Over a 10-year period we have seen a real change in what concerns men when they attend sexual health clinics," said researcher Dr. Paolo Capogrosso, from the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan.
"This is probably driven by greater openness, and men now accepting that many sexual problems can be treated, rather than being something they don't want to talk about," Capogrosso added.
The findings were scheduled for presentation at the European Association of Urology virtual meeting on Saturday. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For the study, the researchers questioned more than 3,200 men seen at the San Raffaele Hospital Sexual Health Clinic between 2009 and 2019.
From 2009 to 2013, the number of men seen for erectile dysfunction increased, then began decreasing.
Few men complained of low sex drive or curvature of the penis (Peyronie's disease) in 2009, but complaints grew from 2009 on. By 2019, men were about 30% more likely to report Peyronie's disease than in 2009, and around 32% more likely to report low sexual desire.
The number of men who complained of premature ejaculation decreased by around 6% over 10 years and the average age when men first went to the clinic dropped from about 61 to 53 years of age, the findings showed.
"Erectile dysfunction is still the main reason for attending the clinic, but this number is dropping, whereas around 35% of men attending the clinic now complain of Peyronie's disease, and that number has shown steady growth," Capogrosso said in a news release from the European Association of Urology. "Our patients are also getting younger, which may reflect a generational change in attitude to sexual problems."
These changes don't reflect a change in the prevalence of these conditions, he noted. "The changes probably also reflect the availability of treatments; as treatments for sexual conditions have become available over the last few years, men are less likely to suffer in silence," Capogrosso suggested.
"In addition, we know that the awareness of this condition is increasing in the USA and elsewhere, so this may be a general trend," Capogrosso said.
Dr. Mikkel Fode, an associate professor of urology at University of Copenhagen, said the findings suggest that men are becoming more aware of their sexual health.
"Although these data are somewhat preliminary, as they stem from [a] single institution, they are interesting because they allow us to formulate several hypotheses," Fode said.
"For example, the drop in men presenting with erectile dysfunction may mean that family physicians are becoming more comfortable addressing this issue and that the patients are never referred to specialized centers," Fode said.
"Likewise, the simultaneous drop in age at presentation and increase in Peyronie's disease and low sex drive could indicate that both men and their partners are becoming more mindful to optimizing their sex lives," he explained.
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