Testosterone deficiency, or hypogonadism, is a common problem among men as they age. About 30 percent of all males over age 50 suffer from the condition to some degree, with symptoms ranging from diminished appetite, fatigue, and decreased libido to irritability, decreased muscle mass and strength, and decreased bone mineral density. Many of these symptoms also play a role in depression, but studies linking depression to hypogonadism are lacking.
Researchers studied the association between hypogonadism and depression in men age 45 and older. At a two-year follow-up, results show nearly 22 percent of the men with low testosterone levels had developed depression, compared to about 7 percent of those with normal levels. The finding held true even after results were adjusted to factor in other conditions, such as alcohol abuse and prostate cancer, that could have raised the risk for depression in the men.
In a recent study of 278 men with no signs of depression at the beginning of the research found about a four-times higher rate of subsequent depression in men with low levels of the male hormone.
Researchers believe further studies are needed to determine the role testosterone replacement may play in treating depression in men and to assess any risks from the treatment that could possibly outweigh its benefits, such as an increased risk for prostate cancer.