Men and Aging

5 Things Men Fear Most About Aging

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Worried about getting old? Who isn't -- except perhaps those who are already unmistakably there. Survey after survey shows the elderly are more content with life, less depressed, and less fearful of death than the young.

"I'm a lot more sanguine and comfortable about aging at 76 than I was at 56," says George Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who codirects its Study of Adult Development.

In the meantime, though? Guys in midlife harbor plenty of fears when they peer ahead. (Women have their own, slightly different set of aging fears).

Among men's top fears about getting older:

Men's Aging Fear #1: Impotence

"No question that men worry more than women about performing," says Ken Robbins, a University of Wisconsin professor of psychiatry who's also board certified in internal medicine. "When libido starts to diminish or things don't work as well as they did before, it's very common for men to worry that they'll embarrass or humiliate themselves."

Perhaps performance anxiety isn't surprising, given a 2008 British study that showed men think about sex 13 times a day, compared to 5 times a day for women.

The prospect of impotence was scarier than cancer or death to readers of a men's magazine in a 2001 poll. Perhaps there's a good medical reason for this: Otherwise healthy men who have erectile problems have been shown to have abnormal coronary tissue, higher incidence of high blood pressure, high blood fat, and other markers of heart disease.

Fear fighter: Have your cholesterol checked. Three-fourths of men with erectile dysfunction (ED) have abnormal cholesterol. "Two-thirds of men who've had heart attacks had ED that predated angina by at least three years," says urologist John Mulhall, director of the Sexual Medicine Program and the Sexual Medicine Research Laboratory at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City.