ORIGINAL RESEARCH—ENDOCRINOLOGY: Hypogonadism, Decreased Sexual Desire, and Long-Term Depression in Middle-Aged Men


  • Role of funding source: This research was supported by an EVO grant from Kuopio University Hospital, which did not, however, have any role in the design or conduct of the study, analysis, or interpretation of the data, in the writing of the report or in the decision to submit the paper for publication. Author H. Koivumaa-Honkanen was supported by the Academy of Finland (grant 116996).

Jukka Hintikka, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital, Building 5, 5th floor, PO Box 1777, FI-70211 Kuopio, Finland. Tel: +35817172930; Fax: +35817172966; E-mail: jukka.hintikka@kuh.fi


Introduction.  In middle-aged men, the associations between long-term depressive symptoms and circulating testosterone levels are poorly known, although it is known that testosterone levels decrease with age.

Methods.  A health questionnaire was mailed to a population-based sample from the National Population Register in 1998, 1999, and 2001. Based on their self-reported mental symptoms, a total of 116 men were selected for clinical examination in 2005. Half of them had high and the others low levels of adverse mental symptoms in all three previous follow-ups. A structured clinical interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV was performed. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS). The Aging Males’ Symptoms scale was also compiled and testosterone levels were determined.

Results.  In the entire study sample, serum free testosterone levels correlated negatively with both BDI and HDRS scores. In the hypogonadism group (based on free testosterone, 19.8% of the sample), clinically significant depression (BDI score ≥ 13) was more than three times as frequent as in the other men (34.8% vs. 10.4%), the odds ratio after multiple adjustments being 4.98 (95% confidence interval 1.66–14.95). A decrease in sexual desire was common in hypogonadism (36%). Nevertheless, it also associated with clinically significant depression, irrespective of free testosterone levels.

Discussion.  Long-term and current depressive symptoms, a decreased sexual desire, and low serum free testosterone levels are associated in middle-aged men. Hypogonadism per se and as a cause of decreased sexual desire may be a contributory and possibly treatable factor underlying male depression.

Conclusions.  The findings highlight the need for hormonal status assessment in middle-aged depressive men. Hintikka J, Niskanen L, Koivumaa-Honkanen H, Tolmunen T, Honkalampi K, Lehto SM, and Viinamäki H. Hypogonadism, decreased sexual desire, and long-term depression in middle-aged men. J Sex Med 2009;6:2049–2057.