Bioavailable Testosterone and Depressed Mood in Older Men

Bioavailable Testosterone and Depressed Mood in Older Men: The Rancho Bernardo Study

A cross-sectional population-based study examined the association between endogenous sex hormones and depressed mood in community-dwelling older men. Participants included 856 men, ages 50–89 yr, who attended a clinic visit between 1984–87. Total and bioavailable testosterone, total and bioavailable estradiol, and dihydrotestosterone levels were measured by radioimmunoassay in an endocrinology research laboratory. Depressed mood was assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Levels of bioavailable testosterone and bioavailable estradiol decreased with age, but total testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and total estradiol did not. BDI scores increased with age. Low bioavailable testosterone levels and high BDI scores were associated with weight loss and lack of physical activity, but not with cigarette smoking or alcohol intake. By linear regression or quartile analysis the BDI score was significantly and inversely associated with bioavailable testosterone (both P’s = 0.007), independent of age, weight change, and physical activity; similar associations were seen for dihydrotestosterone (P = 0.048 and P = 0.09, respectively). Bioavailable testosterone levels were 17% lower for the 25 men with categorically defined depression than levels observed in all other men (P = 0.01). Neither total nor bioavailable estradiol was associated with depressed mood. These results suggest that testosterone treatment might improve depressed mood in older men who have low levels of bioavailable testosterone. A clinical trial is necessary to test this hypothesis.

If you’re older and don’t want to be depressed, have high testosterone.

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3 comments
eah says December 6, 2013

“have high testosterone”

Can you just ask your Dr to prescribe some? Has anyone tried that? Seems like moderate/conservative testosterone therapy could have multiple benefits that taken together may mean a significant improvement in quality of life.

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Mangan says December 6, 2013

eah: I think many doctors are reluctant to prescribe it, mainly because they then have various medical oversight institutions breathing down their neck. It’s a “controlled substance” on a par with anabolic steroids. (Can you imagine the outrage if they made estrogen a controlled substance? never hear the end of it.) I get the sense that this may be changing, and I think doctors will be more willing to prescribe aromatase inhibitors (see prev. post).

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dave in boca says December 7, 2013

My wife goes batsh*t on my doc when he sneaks in a testosterone shot because she says it “changes my personality.” She actually threatens him with Med malpractice if he does, so he’s browbeaten. I beg him to no avail.

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