Intended for healthcare professionals


Marcel Waldinger: neuropsychiatrist and researcher who defined premature ejaculation

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 30 July 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l4940
  1. Tony Sheldon
  1. Utrecht, Netherlands
  1. tonysheldon5{at}

The cover of the 1997 doctoral thesis of Dutch neuropsychiatrist and sexual medicine researcher Marcel Waldinger features a stopwatch.1 Through such low tech means, Waldinger changed medical practice. It was a key tool in achieving international consensus on a definition—and largely accepted best treatment—for lifelong premature ejaculation in men, for which he is credited.

His friend and research collaborator Berend Olivier, professor in psychopharmacology at Utrecht University, explained that men who came to Waldinger’s clinic in The Hague who claimed to be affected by premature ejaculation were sent home with the stopwatch.

Previously the condition had been based on uncertain reporting, but now Waldinger’s patients had to pass an approximate and simple test before he would treat them. Their female partners had to press on the stopwatch when their men achieved orgasm. If this happened less than a minute after entering the vagina they were deemed to be among an estimated 2-5% of all men who are lifelong “premature ejaculators.”

Neurobiological approach

In reality, Marcel spent decades studying thousands of patients in his clinic and abroad, in order to try to understand what is normal. He worked with Aeilko Zwinderman, a statistician at Amsterdam University, before deciding on a cut-off point, an intravaginal ejaculatory latency time of one minute. This prevented overmedicalisation of the condition and is now accepted as …

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