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The Link between Testosterone and Depression

The Link between Testosterone and Depression

By Mike Kocsis | 3 minutes read | Last updated: April 25, 2024
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  • Medically Reviewed by Dr. George Touliatos

    Evidence Based Research

    Medical experts have been trying to determine whether testosterone replacement therapy can effectively reduce the symptoms of depression in men for several decades. The issue is undoubtedly complex, however recent publication of some compelling new research and meta-analysis is attempting to bring a greater level of clarity to this important subject, particularly as currently available medications for mood disorders do not work for everyone.

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    What is Testosterone?

    Testosterone is a hormone primarily produced in the testes in men and smaller amounts in the ovaries and adrenal glands in women. It’s often referred to as the ‘male hormone’ because of its crucial role in the male reproductive system and physical attributes. Testosterone contributes to a variety of bodily functions including:

     

    What causes Low Testosterone?

    Also known as hypogonadism, low testosterone can be categorised into two groups; primary and secondary.

    Primary hypogonadism relates to an issue with the testicles, which are the organs that produce testosterone in the male body. Men who have sustained a testicular injury might also demonstrate primary hypogonadism and these symptoms could be initiated by:

      • Treatment for cancer
      • Mumps
      • High levels of iron in the blood

    Secondary hypogonadism happens when the pituitary gland does not receive the signals it needs to produce more testosterone. Reasons for this can include:

      • Aging
      • Tuberculosis
      • Obesity
      • HIV and AIDS

     

    What are the Symptoms of Low Testosterone?

    Low testosterone can cause a variety of emotional and physical symptoms in both women and men. It is not uncommon for men with low levels of testosterone to see a significant decline in their sex drive or to experience difficulties achieving and maintaining an erection. As testosterone is also closely related to muscle strength and bone density, low levels can also lead to a reduction in muscle mass and weight gain. These symptoms also increase the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. There are many clinical signs of low testosterone, take a look at the table below for the most common signs:

     

    Sexual

    Physical

    Infertility Decreased body hair
    Decreased libidoGynecomastia 
    Erectile dysfunctionDecreased muscle mass and strength
    Delayed ejaculationHot flushes/sweats
    Decreased morning erections Poor quality of sleep
    Fatigue
    Weak bones and joints

    Cardiometabolic 

    Psychological

    Increased BMI/obesity Changes in mood (anger, irritability, sadness, depression, anxiety)
    Visceral (belly fat)Decreased well-being or self-worth
    Metabolic syndrome Decreased cognitive function (memory, concentration and spatial performance)
    Insulin resistance & type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
    Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases

     

    Testosterone and Depression

    While depression has long been understood as a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors, recent studies have understood the impact of hormonal imbalances in contributing to depressive symptoms in men. Understanding the intricate connection between testosterone and depression is crucial for comprehensive mental health care and offers new avenues for the treatment of mood disorders.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described depression as a leading cause of ill health worldwide. ONS research illustrates that approximately 17% of men in the UK have symptoms of anxiety or depression. Anxiety, irritability and depression are common amongst both men and women with low levels of testosterone.

     

    Research on Testosterone and Mood Disorders

     

    In 2014, researchers from Saint Louis University published a review looking at 16 trials which focused on low testosterone and depression. They found that the effects of testosterone treatment on mood were most significant in men under 60. The data also shows that treatment was more effective on participants with low baseline testosterone levels than on those who presented normal levels of testosterone before starting treatment.

    Researchers from TU Dresden, a leading German university, looked at 27 clinical trials which involved more than 1,800 men to try to determine whether testosterone treatment could be used to successfully alleviate the symptoms of depression. Their analysis of the available evidence has been published in the Jama Psychiatry journal and it shows that testosterone treatment is linked with a substantial reduction in depressive symptoms in trial participants.

    Additionally, data demonstrates that when directly compared with a placebo, trial participants who received testosterone treatment were 130% more likely to see at least a 50% improvement in their depressive symptoms. Additional trials are currently required to determine a variety of moderators including dosages, efficacy and safety, however, current research suggests that benefits can be seen within six weeks in both younger and older participants.

     

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    Summing up

    Conclusions from scientific studies have been mixed. However, although it is not currently possible to categorically state that there is a direct link between testosterone and depression, in some cases testosterone therapies can help with mood disorders.

    Although the UK health watchdog Nice does not currently recommend testosterone therapies to treat depression, if it is convincingly shown to be an effective antidepressant then that viewpoint could be set to change.

    If you think you may be suffering from low testosterone, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us where we can check your testosterone levels and discuss treatment options available to you!

     

     

    Bibliography/Scientific studies/Further reading/References

    Depression. Health Topics. The World Health Organisation. https://www.who.int/health-topics/depression#tab=tab_1

    Measuring national well-being: Life in the UK: 2016. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/measuringnationalwellbeing/2016#how-good-is-our-health

    What Is the Link Between Low Testosterone and Depression. University Health News 2015. https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/depression/compelling-new-research-examines-low-testosterone-and-depression/

    Walther ABreidenstein JMiller R. Association of Testosterone Treatment With Alleviation of Depressive Symptoms in MenA Systematic Review and Meta-analysisJAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(1):31–40. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.2734

     

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    Evidence Based Research

    This article has been researched and written based on scientific evidence and fact sheets that have then been crossed checked by our team of doctors and subject matter experts.

    References, sources and studies used alongside our own in-house research have been cited below, most of which contain external clickable links to reviewed scientific paper that contain date stamped evidence.

    Our team of healthcare experts and GMC registered doctors are licensed to UK GMC standards. We strive to provide you with the latest evidence based, researched articles that are unbiased, honest and provide you with accurate insights, statistics and helpful information on the discussed topic to ensure you gain a better understanding of the subject. You can read more about our Editorial Process by clicking here.

    We value your feedback on our articles, if you have a well-researched paper you would like to share with us please contact us.

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    About the Author: Mike Kocsis

    Mike KocsisMike Kocsis has an MBA with a focus on healthcare administration and is an entrepreneur and medical case manager for Balance My Hormones Ltd which offers medical services in the UK and Europe. Mike has over 20 years of experience in the healthcare sector, much of that working with people who have hormone imbalances. Mike has appeared on podcasts and radio and is an expert speaker on the subject of hormone imbalance. He specialises in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and has helped thousands of people suffering from hormone imbalances recover and regain control of their lives. You can follow him on LinkedIn and on the Balance My Hormones YouTube Channel.

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    Last update: April 25th, 2024
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