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 Low Testosterone, Depression Contribute to Men’s Falls, Study Finds

Low testosterone and depression each may make it easier for elderly men to fall, a team of Japanese researchers has found.

Researchers studied the records of 482 men, with a median age of 70 years old, and found that nearly 11 percent of them had reported having fallen in the previous month. The researchers took saliva samples of the men in the study and tested their testosterone levels.

The results showed that the men who hadn’t reported a fall had much higher testosterone levels than the men who had fallen. The median testosterone levels for men who hadn’t fallen was 61 pg/ml; the median levels for men who had fallen was 47.8 pg/ml, Noriaki Kurita of Kyoto University wrote for the team.

Independently, those men who showed signs of depression were also more likely to fall, Kurita wrote. Twelve percent of the men in the overall study showed such signs. But the combination appears to be fierce: The men with the lowest testosterone levels and signs of depression were more than three times more likely to have fallen than those with low testosterone who weren’t suffering from depression.

Men who had the lowest testosterone levels along with depressive symptoms were nearly 14 times more likely to have fallen than men with the highest testosterone levels and no signs of depression, Kurita wrote.

Previous studies over the past decades have offered conflicting evidence of the link between low testosterone and falls. But Kurita and colleagues think they may be on to something.

“We believe that our findings here will influence the activities of physicians and health policymakers for several reasons,” Kurita wrote. “First, both low testosterone levels and depressive symptoms are potentially modifiable risk factors for falls. Physicians who encounter individuals with suspected testosterone deficiency should, therefore, carefully assess the presence of depressive symptoms to reduce further risk of falls.”

Additionally, testing testosterone levels through saliva samples is relatively cheap and “may be a reasonable health plan for community-dwelling older men to stratify the fall risk,” Kurita wrote.

Finally, low testosterone appears to be independent of mobility function, which means that even men who appear to be fully mobile are at a greater risk of falls if their testosterone is dipping, Kurita wrote.

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