The Relationship between Testosterone and Sexual Function in Depressed and Healthy Men


Sidney H. Kennedy, Department of Psychiatry, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2C4, Canada. Tel: 416-340-3888; Fax: 416-340-4198; E-mail:


Aim.  Men with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) report high rates of sexual dysfunction, as do healthy males with low levels of testosterone. The objective of this study is to evaluate the effects of depression and low testosterone across various domains of sexual function.

Methods.  Untreated depressed males (N = 44) and age-matched healthy controls (N = 50) had blood samples drawn to determine morning levels of total testosterone (TT) and bioavailable testosterone (BT). In addition, questionnaires regarding depressive symptoms as well as sexual function were administered.

Main Outcome Measures.  Sexual function outcomes were measured using the Sex Effects (SexFX) Scale and depression severity was assessed with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression-17 item (HAMD-17).

Results.  Using TT criteria, 27.9% of men were categorically defined as hypogonadal compared to 19.3% using BT criteria. Within both TT and BT hypogonadal groups, men with MDD had lower scores on all domains of sexual function compared to healthy controls with hypogonadism. Testosterone levels interacted with MDD status to affect orgasm and desire, although not arousal. Multiple linear regression analyses revealed that depression status was the main factor influencing sexual function. Hypogonadal status was not a predictor of sexual function in this sample, although age did play a minor role in the domain of arousal.

Conclusion.  While testosterone levels appear to influence sexual function, specifically orgasm, the presence of MDD appears to be a stronger factor and has high predictive value for sexual outcomes. Rizvi SJ, Kennedy SH, Ravindran LN, Giacobbe P, Eisfeld BS, Mancini D, and McIntyre RS. The relationship between testosterone and sexual function in depressed and healthy men. J Sex Med 2010;7:816–825.