Bioavailable testosterone and depressed mood in older men: the Rancho Bernardo Study

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999 Feb;84(2):573-7. doi: 10.1210/jcem.84.2.5495.


A cross-sectional population-based study examined the association between endogenous sex hormones and depressed mood in community-dwelling older men. Participants included 856 men, ages 50-89 yr, who attended a clinic visit between 1984-87. Total and bioavailable testosterone, total and bioavailable estradiol, and dihydrotestosterone levels were measured by radioimmunoassay in an endocrinology research laboratory. Depressed mood was assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Levels of bioavailable testosterone and bioavailable estradiol decreased with age, but total testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and total estradiol did not. BDI scores increased with age. Low bioavailable testosterone levels and high BDI scores were associated with weight loss and lack of physical activity, but not with cigarette smoking or alcohol intake. By linear regression or quartile analysis the BDI score was significantly and inversely associated with bioavailable testosterone (both Ps = 0.007), independent of age, weight change, and physical activity; similar associations were seen for dihydrotestosterone (P = 0.048 and P = 0.09, respectively). Bioavailable testosterone levels were 17% lower for the 25 men with categorically defined depression than levels observed in all other men (P = 0.01). Neither total nor bioavailable estradiol was associated with depressed mood. These results suggest that testosterone treatment might improve depressed mood in older men who have low levels of bioavailable testosterone. A clinical trial is necessary to test this hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / blood*
  • Dihydrotestosterone / blood
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Smoking
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Weight Loss


  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol