Men who have low levels of testosterone are more likely to be depressed than men in the general population, a new study has found. But testosterone levels should be checked before testosterone replacement therapy is begun to help prevent potentially serious side effects.
Researchers from George Washington University reviewed medical records and surveys of 200 men between the ages of 20 and 77 who were being treated for low levels of testosterone, a condition known as hypogonadism. They found that more than half of these men – 56 percent – reported being depressed or having symptoms of depression. About 25 percent were taking antidepressants. The participants were also largely obese and had low levels of physical activity.
“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 Michael Irwig, M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of the Center for Andrology at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “We felt it important to explore the mental health of this population.”
As men age, their testosterone levels typically drop. Aggressive advertising campaigns from testosterone manufacturers has resulted in skyrocketing prescriptions for the hormone. Researchers found that in many cases men were not tested to see if their testosterone levels were low before the drugs, including products Testim, Androgel and Axiron, were prescribed. This raised red flags about the overprescribing of testosterone treatments especially in light of studies that showed the drugs could increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and death.
Researchers concluded that doctors who see patients that test positive for hypogonadism screen these patients for depression, obesity and unhealthy lifestyle factors that may also need attention.