Androgens are a type of hormone. The most well-known androgen is testosterone, which is produced naturally by the body. Testosterone is involved in the development of male sex characteristics and is important for men’s health and wellbeing. Women also produce testosterone, but in much smaller amounts.
A number of studies have looked at the efficacy of using testosterone to treat men who have depression and low testosterone levels. Out of four studies, only one found that testosterone was better than a placebo at reducing depression symptoms. In the other three studies, testosterone was no more effective than a placebo at reducing depression symptoms.
One study has looked at using testosterone injections to treat women with depression who had not responded well to other treatments. Two thirds of the women experienced a reduction in their depression symptoms after treatment. However, the study only included nine women and there was no control condition to compare to. More research is needed to understand the effectiveness of testosterone for treating depression in women.
Testosterone treatments are generally well tolerated by men, with few side effects reported. Side effects for women can include oily skin, acne, and increased body hair.
Testosterone may have negative interactions with other medications or supplements. It is important that testosterone is only taken under the supervision of a health care professional. High doses may have harmful side effects.
Testosterone can be prescribed by a doctor.
The use of testosterone as a treatment for depression for men cannot be recommended because available evidence has not shown it to be effective. More research is needed to understand the effectiveness of testosterone for women.
Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016