When 'Low T' Gets You Down

Low testosterone levels may be linked to depression symptoms in men

For some men, low testosterone levels may be tied to a common mental health problem.

A new study found that men referred to a doctor for borderline testosterone levels were much more likely to have symptoms of depression than men who had normal 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,” said lead study author Michael S. Irwig, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Center for Andrology at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, in a press release. “We felt it important to explore the mental health of this population.”

Testosterone is a male sex hormone. As men age, they experience a natural decline in testosterone. But when testosterone gets too low — often brought on by excess weight or type 2 diabetes — it can cause symptoms like decreased sex drive, low energy levels, an increase in body fat and a decrease in muscle mass. And according to Dr. Irwig and team, borderline testosterone levels may be linked to depression in men.

The 200 men in this study were between the ages of 20 and 77 and had been referred for borderline testosterone levels. And 56 percent of them were showing symptoms of depression, Dr. Irwig and team found.

Among these patients, around 25 percent were taking antidepressant medications. Men in this study also tended to have high rates of obesity and low rates of physical activity.

"Clinicians should consider screening for depression/depressive symptoms and overweight and unhealthy lifestyle risk factors in men referred for [low testosterone]," Dr. Irwig and team wrote.

This study was published July 1 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Dr. Irwig and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.