Most men think of testosterone as the sex hormone responsible for libido or sex drive. Yes, that is true but there is a also link between low testosterone levels and depression.
A study released at this year’s meeting of the Endocrine Society bring important news that men should know: Depression can go along with borderline or low testosterone levels.
A solid 56 percent of testosterone-deficient participants in the study, from the division of endocrinology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., had significant symptoms or a diagnosis of depression and/or were taking an antidepressant.
The study involved men with testosterone levels of between 200 and 350 nanograms per deciliter. (A level below 300 ng/dL is considered low.)
Although I don’t recommend screening for low testosterone levels, I do suggest that men who are feeling depressed or not as happy as they would like to feel, consider getting their T levels checked. It’s something your doctor could have missed that is very important to be addressed.
Discussions about sex and erections
In general, doctors say men don’t like to discuss symptoms of low testosterone – such as erectile dysfunction and reduced sex drive – and that can make getting to the root cause of the condition and treating it harder.
There are symptoms of low testosterone that are specific to low testosterone – like a blood level less than 300 ng/dL, erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, large breasts and osteoporosis – and symptoms that are not, such as weight gain, decreased muscle strength and mood changes. Depression falls into the non-specific category.
If a person is treated for low testosterone and their mood improves, it could be said in hindsight that low testosterone probably caused their depression, but it’s hard to make a definite correlation at the onset.
Testosterone naturally starts to drop after age 30 at a rate of about 1%\year.
Testosterone replacement therapy, which can be given in the form an injection, a patch, a topical gel or a pellet inserted beneath the skin which lasts for 4-6 months.
Low T and Other Medical Problems
There is a correlation between low testosterone and a variety of indicators of poor health – obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, a lack of exercise as well as depression.
There is a well known connection between low T and obesity. Obesity is the No. 1 cause of low testosterone levels and if you lose 10 to 15 percent of your total weight, your testosterone level will come up. In patients who have a testosterone level of less than 200 ng/dL and in younger patients who have a disease or a cancerous tumor that is causing low testosterone, medication is the obvious choice and usually yields improvement.
Paying attention to decreased testosterone is important because low testosterone raises a man’s risk of death and its decline is markedly accelerated by each co-morbidity.