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BACKGROUND: Research into the sexual behaviour of men and women who experience sexual problems is lacking. In spite of much recent progress in the field of pharmacotherapeutics for erectile dysfunction (ED), there is little information on issues such as the importance of talking about sex between partners, and people’s satisfaction with their sex lives. There is also a perceived lack of communication between men, their partners and their physicians about erectile dysfunction. To obtain quantitative information, a large survey of the adult Canadian population was undertaken. METHODS: Telephone interviews were conducted with adults across Canada. Respondents were drawn at random using predictive dialer technology. Final data were weighted to represent the adult Canadian population according to the latest census data. The margin of error was ±1.78% 19 times out of 20. RESULTS: Most of the people who were surveyed were involved in a relationship at the time and most were able to have open discussions about sex with their partners. According to the respondents, the most difficult issue to discuss was sexual performance. The prevalence of ED was 27% of sexually active men, with onethird feeling that it impacted their quality of life. Only 25% of men with ED consulted a medical professional. Following those consultations, many respondents reported improved erectile function, but of those who had not consulted a medical professional, few intended to do so in the near future. However, most men with ED reported that they would be willing to discuss the problem if their physicians raised the issue, and agreed that physicians are responsible for screening for ED. While men reported that they would be open to routine screening, most had not been screened for ED. CONCLUSIONS: This survey provided health care professionals with several key messages: health care professionals should ask their patients about their sexual health; they should take a sexual history as a regular part of the annual check-up; they should encourage their patients to discuss their sexual health with their partners; and they should understand that the patient’s quality of life can be improved when ED is dealt with in a positive, empathetic manner.