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Asia lags behind by a decade in identifying erectile dysfunction problems: Expert

A leading expert in men's sexual health says Singaporeans need to break the taboo about speaking about sex and erectile dysfunction, which is a common problem for many men in the region.

SINGAPORE: A leading expert in men’s sexual health has encouraged Singaporeans to properly address any problems in the bedroom to increase their confidence, and avoid the repercussions of underlying health problems.

Dr John Mulhall, the Director of the Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, is a leading voice in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual and erectile dysfunction (ED). He said men in the region need to break the taboo about talking about sex, with their doctor or partner.

“Men are only as good as their last erection,’ Dr Mulhall said. “If their last erection isn’t good, every time a sexual encounter comes up, it’s an anxiety-inducing event.

“You’re not the only person out there who has this. It’s really at least a third of men over 40 years of age. You’re in a large boat.

"If you have ED, you should see a doctor. If you have ED you should treat it, and you should treat it early,” he said.

Dr Mulhall described ED as a “significant public health concern” eroding the confidence of many men and hampering healthy relationships. Problems with sexual health have also been widely recognised as symptoms of more serious health issues, including heart disease and diabetes.

But he affirmed that the progression of sexual pharmaceutical drugs, including a new Viagra that dissolves in the mouth, and the knowledge of doctors was making treatment easier.

While statistics vary, a recent study in the Asian Journal of Andrology showed ED was a common and major health problem among Asian nations, including in Singapore, but for a number of reasons, treatment was rarely sought.

Dr Mulhall said the region as a whole “lagged behind by about a decade” in terms of identifying the problem and taking action to fix it, often due to cultural factors and the conservative nature of many societies.

However, he said this was slowly changing. “It was global up until 1998 and I think with time, honestly, the prognosis of that improving even in Asia, is very good. Talking to your partner about it is a very common thing now.

“The younger people, for example, are much more likely to be comfortable talking to physicians about this. If you look at people between the age of 15 and 25, they’re very aware of their sexuality,” he said.


Dr Mulhall is travelling around the region speaking to medical professionals about how to improve their treatment of ED, which carries symptoms that can be both physical and psychological.

“There’s a snowball effect that occurs in erectile dysfunction and this erosion of confidence that occurs is lethal. What happens then is men start withdrawing from relations because it’s such a stressful event, it’s perceived as low libido, it’s perceived by the partner as ‘He doesn’t love me anymore’,” he said.

“We have men say 'Not alone do I no longer have confidence in the bedroom, but I no longer have confidence in the boardroom'. Our inability to function in the bedroom and our perception of ourselves, because of that, permeates throughout our entire life.”

Dr Mulhall encourages men to be confident about seeking advice from a medical professional and to speak openly to their doctor about any sexual or general health concerns.