News reports claim a health practitioner has said 50 per cent of Ghanaian men are impotent
Dr Amanamah was misrepresented in the reports. Furthermore, the statistic, which was sourced from a 1980s Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS) referred specifically to men in Massachusetts within the age bracket of 40 and 70. Therefore, the findings cannot be generalised to Ghana.
The reports quote one Dr Samuel Amanamah of the Sexual Health Foundation, who made the claim while speaking at an event he organized in Kumasi.
The publication has been widely shared and generated public discussion as it means nearly a quarter of Ghana’s men have such a problem.
We fact-checked this claim, looking to answer two key questions:
i. Did Dr Amanamah say 50 percent of Ghanaian men were impotent?
ii. Would this claim be correct in the face of any widely accepted evidence?
In a phone conversation with Dr Amanamah, he explained that the headlines used in the news publications were not exactly what he communicated.
According to him, he indicated that 50 per cent of Ghanaian men within a particular age bracket and not the entire male population, are impotent.
“On what I quoted, 50% of men from the ages 40 to 70, that is the clause, not the young men walking around, those who are sexually active,” he explained in a phone interview.
Indeed, a desk analysis of the content of the news publications was different from the headline. They did not quote Dr Amanamah on the claim that 50 per cent of the Ghanaian male population was impotent but rather, Ghanaian men within the age bracket of 40 and 70.
The lead of Otec FM’s story, for instance, reads: “Executive Director of Sexual Health Foundation, Dr Samuel Amanamah, has revealed that about 50 per cent of men between the ages of 40 and 70 in Ghana are suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED).”
The two clearly are different.
But are 50 per cent of Ghana’s healthy men between the ages of 40 – 70 impotent?
Having established that the news outlets misrepresented what Dr Amanamah said, we sought to find the evidence of the actual claim that 50 per cent of Ghanaian men between ages 40 and 70 have erectile dysfunction.
Population data from the Ghana Statistical Service shows that the total 2020 estimate of all males in Ghana is 15,231,057 while those within the age bracket of 40 and 70 are 2,588,656.
Dr Anamanah’s claim, therefore, presupposes that half of this population are impotent.
Dr Amanamah who makes the claim said in the phone interview that his source is the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS), adding that although it was not conducted in Ghana, its results are used across the world.
“We don’t have a study in Ghana that talks about the prevalence of erectile dysfunction but we have studies in other countries. And from those studies, the results are almost comparable, so I quoted one study from the US which was one of the most profound studies because the people involved were a lot and you know that in research, if you have a lot of people participating in a study, then the results become more authentic…I quoted the Massachusetts Male Aging Study MMAS,” he said.
The MMAS study, published in the United States National Library of Medicine database was a community based, random sample observational survey of non-institutionalized men 40 to 70 years old conducted from 1987 to 1989, 1995 to 1997, and 2002 to 2004 in cities and towns near Boston, Massachusetts in the US. A total of 1,709 men of different backgrounds participated in the study and it was aimed at assessing how closely related ageing and sexual dysfunction or impotence were.
The combined prevalence of minimal, moderate and complete impotence was 52% according to the study.
Our analysis showed that the MMAS is indeed a widely referenced research across populations and had been cited by other research documents with some referring to it as a ‘landmark study of the epidemiology of impotence.’
A 2010 study on sexual dysfunction among Ghanaian men with various health conditions, which cites the MMAS as well, also found that about 60% of the 102 men sampled in Kumasi had sexual dysfunction and the rate varied according to the condition and age.
Two main challenges arise from Dr Amanamah’s use of this data in relation to Ghana
- The study was conducted in three phases from 1987-1989, 1995 to 1997, and 2002 to 2004, suggesting it is significantly dated. Therefore, the findings of the study might not hold true today.
- The findings of the research may not be generalizable to Africa and for that matter Ghana considering the context, racial differences and lifestyle of people within the different geographical locations.
A consultant urologist, Dr Matthew Yamoah Kyei said the only related studies done in Ghana focused on men with various health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes and not healthy men from the general population.
He stated that in his view, basing a claim of erectile dysfunction in Ghana on a study like the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS) is erroneous since the racial differences are significant.
He said although the MMAS is often cited to make general statements, it cannot be used to make emphatic claims.
“[Between] we Africans and Caucasians, our potencies are far different. We have high testosterone levels… The race is important. What proportion of their [MMAS sample] population are blacks?” he quizzed.
He explained that the MMAS has gained popularity because it took a large sample at random from within the general population while most of the other similar studies were clinical studies.
“If you do it [study] at a hospital, it may not be the best, you must go into the population. The Massachusetts Aging Study got popularity because they went into the population, just that the racial issue is what we are not sure of. Among the Caucasians, it [study] may be good but for Africans, it may not be good,” he added.
Three major medical terms used in this report are erectile dysfunction, impotence, and sexual dysfunction. While the two might seem different, several academic materials we reviewed, including one from the Harvard Medical School explained erectile dysfunction as the medical term for impotence.
In most instances, the two words are used interchangeably to mean the same thing, that is, the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for sexual intercourse.
Sexual dysfunction refers to any problem that prevents an individual or couple from experiencing satisfaction from sexual activity.
Media reports that Dr Samuel Amanamah claims that 50% of Ghanaian men are impotent is misleading. The statistic refers to only Ghanaian men aged between 40 and 70.
Again, basing the claim that 50% of Ghanaian men between ages 40 and 70 have erectile dysfunction on the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS) is problematic as the study centred on people of a different race and dates back to more than a decade ago.