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Home > Research Articles > Mental Health: Lifting Men's Fog of Depression

The New York Times

Monday, January 06, 2003

By JOHN O'NEIL

Men whose depression does not respond to medication should have their testosterone levels checked, a preliminary study conducted at Harvard suggests.

In the study, published in the January issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry, 12 such men were treated with testosterone gel and 10 with a placebo. Three of the men who were given the testosterone showed significant improvement, and most of the others registered at least some improvement.

Dr. Harrison G. Pope Jr., the study's lead author, said that the results were too inconsistent and that the study size was too small to draw any real conclusions about testosterone as a treatment for depression. The study's most significant finding, he said, came during an early stage, when potential subjects were being screened.

Earlier research, he said, indicated that about 10 percent of depressed men had low or borderline testosterone levels. But when his team screened a group of men whose depression had failed to respond to treatment, they found that almost half of them had low levels.

Dr. Pope said this suggested a possible link between testosterone and the functioning of antidepressants in men. It also showed that low levels of testosterone might be more common than thought among men who did not respond to treatment, he said.

At the least, Dr. Pope said, psychiatrists should order tests of testosterone levels for men who do not respond to antidepressants and consider a course of supplements while more research is conducted.