While high levels of testosterone have often been associated with successful social standing, a new study has called this into question.
A study by researchers at the University of Bristol, published July 28 in the journal Science Advance, showed that high testosterone levels are not a predisposing factor for sporting or social success, contrary to popular belief. Or at least that the importance of testosterone levels for socioeconomic standing is greatly overstated.
While the Olympics raise questions about the impact of testosterone levels on athletic success, based on mechanisms comparable to those that ensure social success, researchers have examined the true impact of testosterone levels on the circumstances of more than 300,000 British adults by identifying genetic variants associated with testosterone.
These genetic variants are elements of tracking changes in the genetic code. Although they are rare, they play a role in natural selection through information transmitted during reproduction.
An effect that is not based on any evidence
By examining these genetic variants, the researchers found that those associated with high testosterone levels were not at all associated with socioeconomic status – higher education, skilled work, higher income, ability to take risks – or good health and fitness. “There is a widespread belief that a man’s testosterone can influence his place in life. Our results suggest that, despite the mythology surrounding this hormone, its social impact may be overstated,” says Dr. Amanda Hughes, Research Fellow in epidemiology at Bristol Medical School.
Overstated, but still present, because work based on data from 300,000 British adults showed that men with higher testosterone levels had higher incomes, lived in less deprived areas, and were more likely to have skilled jobs and better health.
So does high testosterone guarantee better lives or not? “Testosterone is unlikely to have a significant effect on men’s or women’s status; previously reported associations with socioeconomic status and health, or even athletic performance, may be due to residual effects or reverse causality,” Bristol experts say.