A recent study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine has found that low testosterone may cause depression in men.
Latinos Health reports that men who suffer from hypogonadism, which is characterized by a low level of testosterone, are more at risk to develop depression than men who do not have the condition.
If left untreated, hypogonadism (otherwise known as “low testosterone” or simply “Low T”) can cause a reduction in sperm production and red blood cell count, decreased fat distribution, lowered libido, and weak bone density.
The researchers, lead by Dr. Michael Irwig of George Washington University, studied the medical records of 200 men ages 20 to 77 with low testosterone. The men were evaluated by demographics such as race, height, and weight, and were asked about any experiences they may have had with depression or the use of antidepressants.
The subjects in the study had testosterone levels around 200 to 350 ng/dL, well below the normal level of 300 to 1200 ng/dL. Most of the participants were also overweight or obese.
The study found that 56% of the men had depression or depressive symptoms and nearly a quarter of them were taking antidepressants.
Testosterone tends to peak in adulthood (around the age of 30) in men and subsequently decreases as they get older. Because of this, many of the 13 million men who suffer from Low T ignore their symptoms, deeming them mere signs of aging.
Dr. Irwig conducted the study due to the lack of data about men with “borderline” low testosterone levels.
“In an era where more and more men are being tested for ‘Low T’ — or lower levels of testosterone — there is very little data about the men who have borderline low testosterone levels,” Dr. Irwig wrote in the journal. “We felt it important to explore the mental health of this population.”
The researchers also noted that lifestyle factors, particularly lack of exercise and poor eating habits, may also play a role in Low T and its subsequent depression.