Malaysian cultural differences in knowledge, attitudes and practices related to erectile dysfunction
In a multi-cultural society like Malaysia, which consists of Malays, Chinese and Indian communities, the perception of health and illness is heavily influenced by cultural beliefs and practices. A man’s perception of erectile dysfunction also affects his help-seeking behavior. Several local qualitative studies were carried out to examine social and cultural aspects of erectile dysfunction in the general population as well as men who are having erectile dysfunction. In one study among the general population, different ethnic groups have different terminologies used to describe erectile dysfunction. Health beliefs such as black magic and overuse of penis are cited as causes of erectile dysfunction.
The Indians attributed the problem to fate, probably linked to their religious beliefs of ‘karma’ where one’s previous life determines the present, thus, would readily accept whatever comes. Erectile dysfunction is perceived as a serious problem associated with a loss of manhood and has an impact on one’s relationship and marriage. Men with erectile dysfunction are perceived negatively. The Malay (herbs, tongkat ali, majun and massage), Chinese traditional medicines (herbal treatment, self-prescribed medicine or tonic) and the Indian (yoga or traditional massage) remedies for treating erectile dysfunction. Aphrodisiacs are also consumed by the various ethnic groups to increase sexual vigor.
The embarrassment and reluctance of men, as well as on the part of physicians and other healthcare providers prevent men from seeking effective treatment. It can be summarized that variation in perception and attitudes towards erectile dysfunction is presumably linked to cultural, ethnicity and other social factors.
Further studies are thus warranted to examine how these cultural and social factors play a role in help-seeking behavior of men with erectile dysfunction. There is a need for physicians to consider cultural factors in their consultation, to better understand their patients and better manage the outcome.