Low sex drive and low testosterone – what’s the link?
Link between androgens and sex drive
Low sex drive is something that most adults will experience at some time in their lives.
This could be due to stress, illness, mood, lack of a sexual partner or hormonal changes.
Testosterone is something that is associated with increased sex drive but often people do not think about low testosterone when they have low sex drive.
Here we look at how low testosterone levels can impact your sex drive and what you can do to fix a low libido!
The research behind low testosterone and low sex drive
There is a significant amount of research supporting the idea that low testosterone levels cause low sex drive.
Lejeune et al. found that low testosterone was related to low sex drive and libido in men and that treatment with TRT improved these symptoms. They found that testosterone is a ‘physiological stimulator’ of sex drive in men, and that there is a statistically significant relationship between testosterone levels and sex drive.
There is also considerable research supporting the treatment of low sex drive in women with testosterone.
Whilst there are other causes of low sex drive such as poor health, relationship issues and psychological problems, a low testosterone level is a significant and common cause of this problem that cannot be ignored in men or women.
Declining Testosterone Levels with Age
Natural Testosterone Level Decline in Adult Men
Are all men destined to have a lower testosterone level and therefore a lower sex drive as they age?
It may be obvious to some, but a man’s sex drive in his younger years are usually high and gradually reduce with age. Whilst this isn’t always true, there may be a hormonal reason for this gradual decline.
Two large studies have indicated that men’s total testosterone levels drop by an average of 1.6% per year and their free testosterone levels by 2-3% per year (Harman et al. 2001, Zirkin and Tenover, 2012 and Feldman et al. 2001). This leads to a significant reduction in testosterone which can be linked to a reduction in sex drive as men age.
An important part of this is the increase in SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin) levels in ageing men. SHBG binds to the testosterone in the blood and reduces its availability, thus reducing free testosterone levels.
Other studies have indicated that a reduction in testosterone levels are more closely linked to health and behavioural changes although there was still a gradual decrease with age.
What are the key Biomarkers to Test for Declining Levels of Testosterone?
What certain Biomarkers can tell us
There are some key blood test markers that are important to understand and allow analysis of a man’s useful testosterone levels, particularly as they age.
SHBG – sex hormone-binding globulin binds to testosterone. If levels are too raised then the amount of available testosterone in the blood is reduced.
Albumin – like SHBG this protein also binds to testosterone, reducing the amount available to the body and increasing symptoms.
Testosterone – testosterone levels are closely linked to sex drive, when tested in combination with the above values it gives a picture of a man’s general testosterone levels.
Oestrogen – If oestrogen is raised it can reduce a man’s sex drive. Additionally, a raised oestrogen may indicate that a man is converting a lot of testosterone into oestrogen – this is common in men with higher body fat percentages.
Luteinising hormone (LH) – This hormone is released by the pituitary gland and stimulates the testicles to produce testosterone. It may be high or low in men with low testosterone and is used to help with diagnosis.
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) – Similarly to LH, FSH stimulates the testicles to produce semen, it may also be low or high if testosterone levels are low.
It's not all doom and gloom!
Luckily, you don’t have to fade away as you get older. Nowadays clinics such as Optimale can provide treatment for issues such as low testosterone and low sex drive to ensure that men get the help they need to live happily and healthily.
What should I do?
The first step is to get a blood test and get reviewed by a specialist.
Without a blood test, you do not know if this is definitely the cause. There are lots of different potential explanations as to why you may have a low sex drive, and there may also be treatable reasons why you have a low testosterone level.
However, if you also have some of the other symptoms associated with low testosterone then this may indicate that your low sex drive and low testosterone are linked.
You can check whether you have other low testosterone symptoms here.
The most common symptoms other than low libido are:
• Low mood
• Low energy
• Erectile dysfunction
• Reduced muscle mass
• Brain fog
• Poor motivation
• Reduced height (usually in older men due to reduced bone density)
You can use the ADAM questionnaire here to find out whether you have the main low testosterone symptoms.
There are also other ways to improve your natural testosterone levels.
This can include supplements, diet and exercise. You can read more about this here.
Low sex drive is a common symptom that is seen in men with low testosterone.
Whilst other conditions, such as depression, can cause this issue, low testosterone is a common cause and one worth investigating.
Low sex drive and low testosterone go hand in hand, if you are suffering from low libido then get in touch to find out how we can help with either low testosterone or erection issues.
Our simple blood test will tell you more about whether low testosterone is an issue.
You can read more about testosterone replacement therapy here.
- Lejeune H, Huyghe É, Droupy S. Diminution du désir sexuel et déficit en testostérone chez l’homme [Hypoactive sexual desire and testosterone deficiency in men]. Prog Urol. 2013 Jul;23(9):621-8. French. doi: 10.1016/j.purol.2013.01.019. Epub 2013 Apr 4. PMID: 23830256.
- Schwenkhagen A, Studd J. Role of testosterone in the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder. Maturitas. 2009 Jun 20;63(2):152-9. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2009.02.011. Epub 2009 Apr 8. PMID: 19359109.
- Harman SM, Metter EJ, Tobin JD, Pearson J, Blackman MR, (2001) Longitudinal effects of aging on serum total and free testosterone levels in healthy men. Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.
- Feldman HA, Longcope C, Derby CA, Johannes CB, Araujo AB, Coviello AD, Bremner WJ, McKinlay JB (2002) Age trends in the level of serum testosterone and other hormones in middle-aged men: longitudinal results from the Massachusetts male aging study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Feb; 87(2):589-98.
- Zirkin BR, Tenover JL. Aging and declining testosterone: past, present, and hopes for the future. J Androl. 2012;33(6):1111-1118. doi:10.2164/jandrol.112.017160