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The Link Between Low T and Unemployment

A new study suggests that your ability to come back from a job loss may have a lot to do with your testosterone levels

Losing your job is awful. It can even feel worse than getting a divorce or experiencing the death of a spouse, according to past research. For men in particular, prolonged unemployment can be incredibly destabilizing, and has been linked with increased substance abuse, suicide risk and overall higher mortality rates. 

That said, about one out of 10 workers are laid off in the U.S. each year, so the experience is far from uncommon, and many of us have had to figure out how to cope and eventually bounce back. But according to a new study, testosterone may play a role in how well that process goes. 

The study, published in the journal Economics and Human Biology, focused on how biomarkers like testosterone affect the economy and society as a whole. “Biomarkers are now frequently collected as part of large social science household surveys, such as the U.K. Household Longitudinal Study, which we used in our research project,” co-author Peter Eibich, the deputy head of the Research Group on Labor Demography at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, told PsyPost. “Yet, our understanding of how these biological processes are related to social and economic behavior is currently still limited (at least for most of the biomarkers available).”

Eibich pointed out that testosterone was of particular interest to the researchers because there’s evidence that the sex hormone is associated with personality traits that align with employment success — namely, the willingness to take risks in order to seek status or dominance. 

To figure out if the right amount of testosterone may be the key to employability, Eibich and his team analyzed data from the second and third waves of the U.K. Household Longitudinal Study, a survey of about 40,000 households, including 2,115 men between the ages of 25 and 64 whose testosterone levels and employment rates were further examined. They found that unemployed men with medium and high testosterone levels during the second wave in 2010 were significantly more likely to be employed during the following wave of research in 2013.

“Our results suggest that British men with higher testosterone levels are less likely to become unemployed, and they’re less likely to remain in unemployment if they’re out of work,” Eibich concluded. “This is likely due to differences in personality traits and behavior caused by testosterone. For example, we find that men with higher testosterone levels are more confident.”

It’s important to note that the study only looked at testosterone levels measured via blood test at a single point in time, rather than continuously tracking it throughout any kind of unemployment. “We compensate for this to some extent by using genetic data to isolate variation in testosterone levels that’s caused by differences in genetic expressions (and thus constant across the life course),” Eibich said. “However, further research using data on multiple measurements of testosterone levels for the same individuals would be helpful to gain a sense of how much testosterone levels fluctuate over time for one person.”

Given that you can boost testosterone with regular exercise and adequate sleep and sex, building up your T in the wake of losing your job may not be a bad thing. If nothing else, taking better care of yourself will probably help in your job search, regardless of your hormones. As for low T supplements, it’s best to leave them to someone with a paycheck to waste.