Background: Testosterone (T) level declines progressively with age. Psychiatric symptoms of T deficiency (e.g., dysphoria, fatigue, irritability, low libido) are also symptoms of depression, and appear to be variably expressed.
Methods: We assessed independent measures of hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis functioning, i.e., total T level and androgen receptor (AR) CAG repeat length (CAG RL), a genetic trait marker associated with AR function; and depression (diagnosed by above-threshold score on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale [CES-D]) in 1000 men (mean age = 62.6 years; SD = 8.3) who participated in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study.
Results: There were 110 (11%) men with “depression” (CES-D score ≥ 16) in the analysis sample. Neither total T level nor CAG RL was associated with depression in bivariate analyses. Among men with shorter CAG RLs, the percentage of men with depression was 21.6% in the lowest subgroup of total T (defined by quintiles) and 4.2% in the highest subgroup of total T. This was confirmed in simple logistic regression models with depression as the dependent variable and continuous total T as the predictor, run separately within the three CAG RL subgroups: depression was significantly and inversely associated with total T in men with shorter CAG RLs but not in men with moderate and longer CAG RLs.
Conclusions: CAG isotype, a genetic trait marker of androgen receptor function, may mediate the expression of the central nervous system effects of T deficiency in men.
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Accepted: March 16, 2001
Received in revised form: March 13, 2001
Received: December 6, 2000
© 2001 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.