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The sex hormone testosterone plays a more significant role in the life of a male, but it is present in both sexes to some degree. Despite popular perceptions that testosterone primarily controls aggression and sex drive—although it does play a role in both of those things—research has shown that individual levels of testosterone are also correlated with our language skills and cognitive abilities.

Testosterone occurs in the body naturally, but can be administered as a medication, too. Its most common uses are in the treatment of hypogonadism and breast cancer, as well as in gender affirming hormone therapy to support transitioning.

The Importance of Testosterone

When many people think of someone with a high level of testosterone, they may picture a man loaded with strength, sexual prowess, and machismo. But while high-T has been correlated with all those things, it’s also been correlated with status-seeking, dominance, aggression, sexual misconduct, and violence.

One of testosterone’s most common uses—as a performance-enhancing steroid—illustrates both sides of the hormone. Injecting steroids can be a quick way for athletes to dramatically improve performance, but the side effects can also be extreme, and can include excessive body hair growth, sexual dysfunction, and the hard-to-corral anger known as “roid rage.”

What role does testosterone play in the body?

Testosterone influences a wide array of abilities and behaviors, prompting fluctuations in llibido, health, cognition, and language. Testosterone doesn’t only spur aggression—it can also inspire benevolent acts, research suggests. This provides evidence for the belief that testosterone might serve to encourage status-enhancement.

Does testosterone affect sex drive?

Sex drive is stronger in the typical man than in the typical woman, and testosterone helps fuel that desire—rising testosterone levels will lead to a stronger sex drive. Understanding hormonal differences between the sexes can help to create changes that prevent sexual harassment and assault, and create a more equitable society.

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When Testosterone Fluctuates

Testosterone fluctuates according to age and life circumstance, often plummeting at the onset of parenthood, and spiking (for some) during moments of triumph. Romantic relationships, too, can impact a person’s testosterone production; though the reasons are still not fully understood, entering a relationship tends to increase women’s testosterone levels, while decreasing men’s.

Since males produce significantly more testosterone than females—about 20 times more each day—females can be more sensitive to these fluctuations. High levels of testosterone, particularly in men, have been correlated with a greater likelihood of getting divorced or engaging in extramarital affairs, though a causal link has not been established.

How do men’s testosterone levels change over time?

Testosterone levels generally decrease with age, falling 1 to 2 percent each year. Therefore low testosterone is a much more common experience for older men than younger men. Other life changes can also lead hormone levels to fluctuate. For example, testosterone often dips after having a child, which research suggests raises the risk of postpartum depression for new fathers.

What happens when a man has low testosterone?

A testosterone deficiency leads to both sexual and physical changes. Men with low testosterone can have a low sex drive or erectile dysfunction, and they may experience hair loss, reduced muscle mass, exhaustion, irritability, or depression.

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