Menfolk, have you heard about the babies?! Those bundles of joy are actually ruthless testosterone-killers in swaddling disguises. Google is currently exploding with media reports on a new study finding that dads who sleep next to infant humans have lower levels of testosterone than dads who are all like “Quit hoggin’ all the covers and sleep in ya own bed, baby!” Here’s testosterone the death sentence from the study:
Our findings specifically suggest that close sleep proximity between fathers and their offspring results in greater longitudinal decreases in T as men transition to fatherhood and lower PM T overall compared to solitary sleeping fathers.
So there’s one thing that lowers testosterone: sleeping next to babies. And it makes sense that nuzzling up next to a wee one has that minor physiological effect because, as the researchers have explained, it may help mediate nurturing, parental behavior. In other words, it’s a good thing, or at least not a threatening-to-one’s-manhood thing. But the media tend to freak out about these kinds of correlations, and people on the Internet don’t have a lot of time for reading beyond headlines, and suddenly fathers start thinking twice about co-sleeping, even though it doesn’t actually pose a threat to their virility.
And speaking of dads, fatherhood itself was the testosterone-killer du jour in 2011 when the same intrepid researchers who broke the co-sleeping finding above published a study linking it to a hormone droop. The New York Times led the story ominously, “This is probably not the news most fathers want to hear.” Despite insistence from the scientists that that’s actually a good thing for men’s long-term health, their reasoning was drowned out by the horrified screams of dads-to-be around the world. (You can read more about the details of the research in Cristen’s article “Do new fathers have lower testosterone than single men?”)
The funny thing about all of this testosterone coverage is that it’s heralded as something surprising but some light digging quickly reveals a host of things that are out to get America’s favorite aggression-fueling hormone. Consider, for a moment, love, the magical ingredient that goes into the making of those testosterone-threatening babies.
A 2004 study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology (say that five times fast) tested the hormone levels of men and women who had recently fallen in love. And what did they find?
FSH and testosterone levels were lower in men in love…
BUT WAIT, THAT’S NOT ALL
…women of the same group presented higher testosterone levels.
Also: long-term relationships. Even after the initial luster of love fades, a 2003 study found that male Harvard Business School students have a 21% lower level of testosterone in their saliva compared to their unattached Ivy League compatriots.
And you know what else is linked to limp testosterone levels? Losing. Not so surprisingly, losing a competition — a tennis game, in the case of this 1989 study — is correlated to a blood level testosterone drop. Since it’s election season, it’s also worth reminding the male electorate that rocking the vote for a losing candidate also causes testosterone levels to plummet. Which now brings us to the ultimate downer: the recession. Yep, in 2008 a British doctor worried that the global financial meltdown was literally kicking men in the pants by dampening their testosterone. In reality, the story was all about how chronic stress and anxiety affect the hormone, but “Recession ‘may damage testosterone levels in men’” is way more attention-grabbing, right?
So there you have it: meeting somebody special, making a baby, spending time with said baby, getting a job to help support said baby and somebody special, participating in the electoral process in order to ensure that the government does right by the baby when it grows up — all of these things are lurking out there just waiting to ruin some testosterone somewhere, somehow. Take heed and be careful out there, men.
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