Wednesday Bubble: Depressed? It may be high testosterone

Posted by on Oct 16, 2013 in depression | 4 comments


As I’ve written previously, depression and hormonal imbalance go hand in hand as much as love and marriage, babies and carriages, and yin and yang. As many as 40% of women are affected by depression during menopause, but there are other factors that come into play, including gender (women are 1.5 to 3 times likelier than men to report a lifetime history of depression), stress, family life, general health issues, a lack of exercise and genetics. Moreover, research has shown that how women perceive the effect of menopause and its symptoms on their physical health can significantly affect whether or not they develop depression at the start of the ‘pause.

I’ve got one more factor to add to the mix: testosterone. Findings reported at this week’s International Federation of Fertility Societies/American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting suggest that when it comes to depression in menopause, high testosterone levels may be at-play, at least in Caucasian women.

Among 400 women studied over 14 years (who were 35 to 47 when the study began), 76% had a history of depression. Still, researchers say that this history did not appear to affect the relationship between high testosterone levels and depression scores; in fact, Caucasian women with the highest testosterone levels were 27% more likely to have depression than women who had the lowest levels. In fact, when considered in totality, each jump to the next measure of testosterone levels (four in all) increased the risk of depression by 14%.

Importantly, the researchers did not see the same increase in depression among African-American women. Rather, African-American women with the highest testosterone levels were 26% less like to have depression.

There is no indication of the reasons why testosterone affects mood in Caucasian versus African-American women. However, it’s important that we have another piece of the puzzle. Take note: if testosterone patches ever make it to market in the U.S., women with preexisting depression may want to step back before hopping on that bandwagon.


  1. 10-16-2013

    Fascinating. I have had a long history of managing depression, and a long history of high testosterone. Who woulda thunk–especially since men are so much LESS prone to depression, with all their T. After WHI, we are all well advised to be super careful about messing with hormones. They’re tiny but powerful, and not all that predictable.

    • 10-16-2013

      Interesting Mamie. This is actually the first I’ve heard of it. I suspect that T is only part of the picture and women are just more prone to depression to start with. Perhaps what’s missing in men is the estrogen balance?

  2. 2-20-2014

    Hi, Liz! I learned from your post. I have a wife who is experiencing menopausal now at her age and i think she is experiencing depression since she is just 43 years old. Is there a possible way that I can help her? Is it normal at her age? Thanks!

    • 2-20-2014

      Hi Mark. I am not a healthcare professional but I can say that the evidence shows that depression is very common during midlife and particularly during menopause. Check out these posts from the Archives: You may find some useful tidbits that will help you help your wife. Early menopause is especially difficult and symptoms may be exacerbated.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *