[psychiatry-research] Testosterone Is Linked To Men's Depression
- Testosterone Is Linked To Men's Depression
June 25, 1999
University Park, Pa. -- Testosterone is a hormonal paradox, elevating mood,
which reduces depression, but also causing negative, even self-destructive
behaviors that lead to depression.
A Penn State study is helping to explain this paradox and pinpoint the level at
which testosterone ceases to be a benefactor and becomes a problem.
"Medical and social science researchers have developed conflicting views of
testosterone," says Dr. Alan Booth, professor of sociology and human
development. "Medical studies indicate that testosterone has a positive impact
on mood, thereby lowering the odds of clinical depression. But at the same
time, social science research finds testosterone to be related to criminality,
drug use, heavy drinking and smoking, propensity toward physical confrontation,
sexual promiscuousness, unemployment or underemployment and being unmarried --
all factors clearly linked to depression."
"Our analysis reveals that higher testosterone reduces the chances of
depression among those with below average testosterone, but raises the chances
of depression among those with above average testosterone, especially when
those same men do not enjoy the stabilizing benefits of marriage and full-time
employment or engage in anti-social or risk behavior," Booth adds.
Booth; Dr. Douglas A. Granger, assistant professor of biobehavioral health and
director of Penn State's Behavioral Endocrinology Laboratory in the College of
Health and Human Development; and Dr. David R. Johnson, professor of sociology
at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, have published their findings,
"Testosterone and Men's Depression: The Role of Social Behavior," in the
Journal Of Health And Social Behavior.
The researchers analyzed the relationship between testosterone and health in a
random sample of 4,393 U.S. Army veterans who served between 1965 and
1971.These men were examined medically as part of the Vietnam Experience Study
conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 1985-86.
In this CDC study, testosterone levels were measured in plasma from blood drawn
at 8 a.m. and before breakfast. Concentrations ranged from 53 nanograms per
deciliter (ng/dl) to 1,500 with an average of 679. The same study included data
on anti-social behavior, unemployment, marriage and depression.
"Our findings showed that, among men whose testosterone is below 590 nanograms
per deciliter, each increase in the testosterone level is associated with less
depression," says Booth. "Among men with testosterone above this count, each
increase in the hormone is associated with greater depression."
When the protective effects of marriage and employment are factored in, the
relationship between high testosterone and depression is greatly reduced. When
anti-social and risk behavior are added to the equation, men with high
testosterone are no more likely to be depressed than individuals with average
levels of the hormone," he adds.
Anti-social and risky behavior bring people into contact with the criminal
justice system and put individuals at odds with relatives and friends.
Incarceration, being sued or paying fines and social isolation increase the
risk of depression, say the researchers.
Granger notes, "We don't fully understand why men with below average
testosterone benefit from the hormone. But this study clears up why some
earlier studies find higher testosterone has positive effects while others
report negative consequences of higher testosterone. Our study indicates that
many men with average levels of testosterone may not benefit from testosterone
"Because the data set contained other indicators of psychological stress, the
researchers were able to construct multiple-item scales assessing bipolar manic
disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder
and phobias. Our analyses showed that testosterone was unrelated to these
disorders," says Booth.