The endocrine system and ageing

J Pathol. 2007 Jan;211(2):173-80. doi: 10.1002/path.2110.


Complex changes occur within the endocrine system of ageing individuals. This article explores the changes that occur in the metabolism and production of various hormones and discusses the resulting clinical consequences. As individuals age there is a decline in the peripheral levels of oestrogen and testosterone, with an increase in luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and sex hormone-binding globulin. Additionally there is a decline in serum concentrations of growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-I and dehydroepiandrosterone and its sulphate-bound form. Even though there are complex changes within the hypothalmo-pituitary-adrenal/thyroid axis, there is minimal change in adrenal and thyroid function with ageing. The clinical significance of these deficiencies with age are variable and include reduced protein synthesis, decrease in lean body mass and bone mass, increased fat mass, insulin resistance, higher cardiovascular disease risk, increase in vasomotor symptoms, fatigue, depression, anaemia, poor libido, erectile deficiency and a decline in immune function. For each endocrine system, studies have been carried out in an attempt to reverse the effects of ageing by altering the serum hormonal levels of older individuals. However, the real benefits of hormonal treatment in older individuals are still being evaluated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Androgens / physiology
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / physiology
  • Endocrine System / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gonadotropins, Pituitary / physiology
  • Hormones / physiology*
  • Human Growth Hormone / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Male
  • Menopause / physiology
  • Parathyroid Hormone / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Somatomedins / physiology
  • Thyroid Gland / physiology


  • Androgens
  • Gonadotropins, Pituitary
  • Hormones
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Somatomedins
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone