Yikes! It sounds a little over-the-top, but according to a study conducted by Molly Shores of the Puget Sound VA Health Care System and the University of Washington, men over age 40 with low testosterone levels have a higher risk of death over a 4-year period than men with normal levels. The reason is not yet clear and researchers say it is possible that an unknown factor may be responsible for both the low testosterone levels and increased mortality.
The study found that testosterone levels can vary dramatically between different men and even within an individual as a result of stress or an illness; though studies consistently show that testosterone levels do decrease as men age. Levels of the hormone peak during a man's late twenties but begin to decline soon after; decreasing about 1.5% per year after the age of thirty. This decline is believed to be caused by age-related changes in the testes, where testosterone is produced and also in the brain.
"Nearly 35% of men with low testosterone died during the course of the study"
Low testosterone levels can cause decreases in muscle mass and bone density, decreased sex drive and sexual performance, reduced energy and stamina, irritability and feelings of sadness and depression. Researchers studied the relationship between measured testosterone levels and death in 858 veterans who were forty years or older. Participants were followed for 4.3 years (on average) and had their testosterone levels tested at least twice during the study period.
About 19% of the men had low testosterone, 28% had levels between low and normal, and 53% testosterone levels that were normal. Roughly 20% of the men with normal levels died during the course of the study. In contrast, nearly 35% of men with low testosterone levels died in the same period. In short, the men with low testosterone had an 88% percent increased risk of mortality when compared to men with normal levels. This effect persisted even after variables like age, ill-health, and obesity were taken into consideration. This finding suggests that the link between low testosterone and mortality is not simply due to illness.
Because this is a retrospective study, researchers can only conclude that low testosterone levels and increased mortality are linked, but not how they are linked. "The men with low testosterone did have higher death rates, but it may be due to some other factor that we weren't able to measure," Shores said, stating that further studies need to be conducted on larger and more diverse groups.