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.
Some research has suggested there could be a link between low testosterone levels and depression in men. It is thought that increasing testosterone levels may lead to an improvement in mood for men with low levels of testosterone. Testosterone can be given in many forms, such as tablets, gels, injections and skin patches.
There have been a number of studies in which men with low mood were treated with testosterone Three reviews of these kind of studies found that testosterone may be helpful in improving depression symptoms, particularly for men who had low levels of testosterone to begin with. However, not all of the participants in these studies had clinical depression. More research is needed to better understand if testosterone could be an effective treatment for clinical depression in men.
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.
Testosterone treatments are generally well tolerated by men, however some studies have found that large doses of testosterone were linked to cardiovascular side effects, and more research is needed to determine the long-term impacts of testosterone treatments. Side effects of testosterone 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.
Testosterone might help to improve mood in men who have low levels of testosterone, however more research is needed to better understand if it could be an effective treatment for clinical depression. It is not recommended as a treatment for depression.
Last reviewed and updated: 1 November 2019