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OBJECTIVE: To report a large-scale multinational investigation of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and sexual function, designed to investigate the independent association between them, as recent small-scale epidemiological studies suggest an association between benign prostatic hyperplasia and sexual dysfunction; both conditions are strongly associated with age and no study has been able to exclude age as a confounding factor in this relationship. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Culturally and linguistically validated versions of standard questionnaires were used to estimate the prevalence of LUTS (using the International Prostate Symptom Score, IPSS) and erectile dysfunction (ED) score (using O'Leary's Sexual Function Inventory) in regions of the UK (Birmingham), the Netherlands (Boxmeer), France (Auxerre) and Korea (Seoul). In each centre, stratified random samples were selected from population registers to provide representative samples of the population of men aged 40-79 years (and their partners) in each community. Direct interviews were held in Seoul and postal questionnaires used in the three European centres. The samples were selected randomly providing representative samples in each community. RESULTS: In all, 4800 men and 3674 women responded; the response rates among men were 77% in Boxmeer, 21% in Auxerre, 42% in Birmingham and 65% in Seoul. The overall prevalence of ED for men aged 40-79, estimated as an ED score of 0-4, was 21.1%. There was evidence of a linear increase with age (P < 0.001) and the pattern was very similar in the four centres. From the weighted logistic model, there was evidence of an association between sexual dysfunction, other self-reported diseases and lifestyle. From the ED score, after adjusting for age and country, men with diabetes were more likely to score of 0-4 (odds ratio 1.57, 95% confidence interval 1.09-2.25), as were those with high blood pressure (1.38, 1.09-1.75) and with an IPSS of 8-35 (1.39, 1.10-1.74). For lifestyle, smokers were more likely to score 0-4 (1.54, 1.23-1.92), while physical activity during leisure time was slightly associated with a reduction in the chance of scoring 0-4 (0.87, 0.77-0.99). The analysis gave the same results when repeated using self-reported ED instead of the dichotomised score. CONCLUSIONS: ED is clearly age-related and a problem for a large proportion of men in the community. It can have a profound impact on the quality of life of the man and on his partner. Were all men with this problem to seek medical help there would be a large burden on healthcare systems. There are cultural and age effects on the assessment of this problem.

Original publication




Journal article


BJU International

Publication Date





719 - 725