Low Sexual Desire in Men

Greg was losing his interest in sex and he couldn’t figure out why.

It didn’t make sense to him. After all, he was a guy. Wasn’t he supposed to want sex all the time? In his teens and twenties, he thought about it constantly. When he first married Bonnie, it was still exciting. They liked to have sex in different places, like the laundry room or the back yard. Those were the good old days.

But now, twelve years later, things were different. The kids came along and it was tough find the time and energy for sex. He was worried about making it through the next round of layoffs at work and that was certainly a distraction. Bonnie was stressed too, with all the extra responsibilities piled on her at work. Sex was no longer adventurous; it was the same old routine. Sometimes he couldn’t get a firm erection and that bothered them both. They didn’t talk about it though.

We often hear about women losing interest in sex. In fact, the Society for Women’s Health Research calls hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) the most common sexual dysfunction in women.

Low sexual desire in men doesn’t seem to get as much attention. But it happens. In the United States, for example, the National Health and Social Life Survey found that 14% of men between the ages of 18 and 29 had lacked sexual desire at some point during the previous twelve months. For men aged 50 - 59, the rate was 17%.

Why might men lose interest in sex? Recently, a group of European researchers examined this question. Let’s take a look at some of their findings.

The Study

The researchers surveyed over 5,000 heterosexual men who had had at least one sex partner in the previous year. The men were between the ages of 18 and 75, but their average age was 36. They were from Portugal, Norway, and Croatia. Most of them were in a committed relationship.

The men answered a variety of questions about their sex lives, addressing issues like sexual satisfaction, sexual problems, interest in sex, and level of sexual boredom. They also addressed body image, self-confidence, the status of their relationships, personal distress over sexual problems, anxiety, and depression.

About 14% of the men said that over the past year, they had had a distressing lack of sexual interest that lasted two months or longer. This was more common in men who were married or living with a partner.

Men who had less confidence in their ability to have erections were more likely to lose sexual interest, along with those who didn’t feel attracted to their partner and those who were in long-term relationships.

The men also gave their own reasons for lack of interest, which included the following:

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Work stress
  • Boredom with sex life
  • Relationship problems, such as a sexually passive partner, conflicts, or poor communication
  • Being with a partner for a long time

What can men do?

Fortunately, there are steps a man can take to alleviate some of these issues.

  • See the doctor. A man might not like to admit he has a sexual problem. But a sexual health specialist can help him pinpoint the reasons behind it and suggest ways to manage it. For example, there are many reasons a man might have trouble with erections and it’s important to get treatment. Couples with relationship problems may benefit from counseling. A sex therapist can suggest ways to add some novelty to a couple’s sexual routine. (For help in finding a sexual medicine specialist in your area, click here.)
  • Talk to his partner. Sex might be awkward to talk about, but starting the discussion can make both partners feel relieved. Honesty and openness can go a long way.
  • Add some spice. It’s easy to get in a sexual rut, especially when partners have been together for a long time and are busy and stressed. Couples can find ways to make sex more interesting. This could mean having sex at a different time of day or a different location. It might mean incorporating sex toys or role playing fantasies. It could also mean scheduling a date night or a romantic weekend getaway for two.
  • Manage stress and anxiety. Doing so is good for a man’s general health, not just his sex life. Taking steps to work fewer hours, get more exercise, and have more fun with friends can do wonders. A healthcare provider can suggest strategies, too.

What do you think? Have you or your male partner ever lost interest in sex? What happened? Did the spark return? Feel free to tell us your story in the comments.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Carvalheira, Ana, PhD, at al.

“Correlates of Men's Sexual Interest: A Cross-Cultural Study”

(Full-text. First published online: October 28, 2013)



Pappas, Stephanie

“Low Sexual Desire Plagues Men, Too”

(November 7, 2013)


Sexual Medicine Society of North America