Does Marriage Really Lower Testosterone Levels?
Marriage has always been a subject of intrigue and study for scientists and social researchers. While it’s often associated with notions of commitment, love, and partnership, studies suggest an unexpected side effect: lowered testosterone levels in men.
As you probably know, testosterone––often dubbed the “male hormone”––plays a pivotal role in shaping physical and psychological traits. This hormone, predominantly found in men but also women in smaller amounts, exerts a profound influence on the body and mind. It’s responsible for that deeper voice, the sprouting of facial hair, and the bulking up of muscles during adolescence. It also contributes to sexual desire and the drive to dominate through competition.
That said, does saying “I do” lead to a decline in this hormone? Are married men destined to experience a drop in testosterone levels as they embark on this lifelong partnership journey? Ultimately, is this just another one of life’s many myths, or is it a scientific fact?
Read on as we delve into the intricacies of long-term relationships and how societal norms and expectations might influence the marriage-testosterone relationship.
The Initial Studies
The scientific exploration of this topic has yielded fascinating insights into the relationship between marriage and testosterone levels. While there isn’t a definitive answer, several studies have attempted to shed light on the matter.
In a June 2017 study published in the Psychoneuroendocrinology Journal, scientists from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) tested this theory with 1,113 men aged 30 to 60. The findings of the 10-year study are outlined below:
“Testosterone samples were taken from the blood at the beginning of the study and again after 10 years. The samples were then compared to see if any changes in testosterone level had occurred and whether these changes were dependent on the marital status of each individual. The results showed that men who were unmarried prior to the study who became married during the 10 years between each sample was taken showed the largest drop in testosterone compared to other men. As well as this, men who went from married to unmarried over the 10 years showed the smallest decline in testosterone.”
As individuals age, it’s common for their testosterone levels to decrease naturally. Nonetheless, when scientists considered variables such as age and lifestyle factors such as smoking and weight, which can also impact testosterone levels, they observed that men who had entered into marriage during that period experienced the most pronounced reduction in their testosterone levels.
The concept that marriage might lower testosterone levels gained traction with an October 2007 study published in the Current Anthropology journal. This study, led by
researcher Peter B. Gray, an anthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), claimed that married men had lower testosterone levels than their single, unattached counterparts. Conducted outside the United States, the research suggested that the committed nature of marriage might dampen the hormonal drive for competition and reproduction, reducing testosterone.
The findings of the study, as summarized by Science Daily, are outlined below:
“[The team] conducted their research among the Ariaal pastoralists in Northern Kenya, comparing testosterone levels between single men, men married to one wife, and men married to multiple wives. The team examined saliva samples from 205 men over 20 years of age. The results showed that, similar to North American men, monogamously married Ariaal men had significantly lower morning and afternoon testosterone levels compared to their single counterparts of similar age (20-39). Surprisingly, older polygynous Ariaal men had lower testosterone levels than their monogamous counterparts. These latter findings suggest that, among older men, the decrease in testosterone doesn’t stop with one wife and that social status and wealth – rather than testosterone-related behaviors – may better determine whether a man had more than one wife.”
The Role of Evolution
To understand why marriage might influence testosterone levels, it’s helpful to consider the evolutionary perspective. Evolution has shaped our biology to maximize our chances of passing our genes to the next generation. From this standpoint, the idea that marriage might lower testosterone makes some sense.
Evolutionarily, higher testosterone levels are associated with increased competition for mates and a focus on short-term mating strategies. On the other hand, lower testosterone levels might be related to a more stable, long-term commitment to a partner and the potential to invest more in offspring.
This theory aligns with the idea that marriage could signal the body that it’s time to shift from competitive behaviors to nurturing and cooperative ones. However, humans are incredibly complex creatures, and biology doesn’t always neatly align with our social norms and relationships.
As many know, marriage is far more complex than the simple label of “married” or “single.” It encompasses a broad spectrum of relationships, from newlyweds in the honeymoon phase to couples together for decades. This complexity presents challenges when determining definitive conclusions about its effects on hormones.
Let’s consider a few factors that might influence the relationship between marriage and testosterone levels:
Duration of Marriage: A key question is whether the course of marriage plays a role. Does testosterone gradually decrease over time, or is there a specific “honeymoon period” during which the decline is most pronounced?
Quality of Relationship: The quality of the marriage might also be a significant factor. A happy and fulfilling marriage could affect hormone levels differently than an unhappy or strained one.
Age: Testosterone levels naturally decline with age. It’s essential to factor this in when studying married individuals of varying ages.
Fatherhood: Becoming a father is another life event that can significantly impact testosterone levels. Does the decrease in testosterone observed in married men relate more to the act of marriage itself or to the responsibilities of parenthood that often accompany it?
Individual Variability: It’s crucial to remember that individuals vary significantly in their response to marriage and its effects on testosterone. What might cause a noticeable decline in one person may not have the same impact on another.
The complex interplay of these factors highlights the challenge of drawing overarching conclusions about the relationship between marriage and testosterone levels. Instead, it suggests that the impact varies from person to person, influenced by multiple factors, including the nature of the relationship, individual biology, and life circumstances.
The Real-World Implications
To understand whether marriage lowers testosterone levels, we’ve explored a fascinating journey through the world of hormones, relationships, and human biology. While initial studies sparked interest in this topic, subsequent research has painted a more complex picture, highlighting the importance of factors like the duration of marriage, relationship quality, age, and parenthood.
Ultimately, the connection between marriage and testosterone is just one small piece of the puzzle regarding understanding the intricate interplay between our biology and social lives. Whether you’re happily married, single, or somewhere in between, human relationships are deeply nuanced, and their effects on our bodies and minds are equally intricate.
So, what does this all mean for the average married person or someone contemplating marriage? Should we be concerned about the potential impact of marriage on our testosterone levels?
To start, it’s crucial to recognize that the changes in testosterone levels associated with marriage if they occur, are relatively modest. These changes are unlikely to significantly impact most aspects of a person’s life, including sexual function. And fear not! There are also numerous ways to increase your testosterone levels naturally.
The effects of marriage on testosterone levels are just one piece of the puzzle. Marriage is a complex, multifaceted institution with countless emotional, psychological, and social implications. Whether or not marriage affects hormone levels, it can bring tremendous benefits, including emotional support, companionship, and the opportunity to build a life together with someone you love.
Finally, it’s essential to remember that individual marriage experiences vary widely. Some individuals may see changes in their hormone levels, while others may not notice any significant difference. The impact of marriage on testosterone is just one factor among many that influence our physical and emotional well-being.
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