Testosterone is a double-edged sword for men.
It is a hormone that makes males more assertive, improves muscle mass and bone health, and boosts mood and mental health.
But many men take more risks, are less cognisant of their health, and are less likely to reach out for help.
The statistics bear this out. One in every five men will die before the age of 65. Two in three men are overweight or obese. Four out of five suicides are men. And, on average, men live five years less than women, in the United States.
What role does testosterone play in men’s health? And what can men learn to improve their mental and physical health? Ultimate Performance CEO and founder Nick Mitchell discusses this topic with Content Manager Ben Kenyon in a fascinating video interview.
BEN KENYON: I wanted to read some sobering statistics from Men’s Health Forum, which is a men’s charity here in the UK. One in every five men will die before the age of 65; 75% of all premature deaths from heart disease are men; 67% of men are overweight or obese; men are three times as likely to become alcohol dependent as women; four out of five suicides are men and it is the highest cause of death for men under the age of 45. The first question is, why are men’s mental and physical health in such a bad state?
NICK MITCHELL: I’ll add a statistic to that – in the United States, on average, women live five years longer than men. Five years, half a decade. That’s not an accident. Why is that? The truth is that, well, it’s clearly obvious, the obvious answer is women and women’s health are looked after better by society and better by women. Simple as that.
BEN: And so are we, as a society, failing men of all ages, or failing to educate our young men. Is it the job of society to look after men and put these structures in place?
NICK: It’s the job of society to educate people, and then it’s the job of people to make informed decisions based on the information that society gives them – the candid, frank and honest information that society gives them. There are reasons for these statistics that are to my mind, not to everybody’s mind, to my mind; some of the reasons for these stats are acceptable.
Men are far more likely to take risks. That, by the way, is one of the reasons why men – especially after a certain age, because it’s always after 30 years of age, it’s not before it – the gender pay gap didn’t exist really until they hit that 30. And one of the reasons for the gender pay gap is men take risky jobs.
So, men are more prone to put themselves at risk. Why is that? We know both instinctively, and we now know scientifically more than ever the reason why men take greater risks. And I would be very happy to speculate that that willingness to take extra risk carries itself over into too much of a disregard for one’s health.
Men don’t go to the doctor like women go to the doctor. We know this. We all know this. Who goes to the dentist? Women, not men. ‘Oh, I’ll put it off. I’ll put it off.’ You and I have both got friends that do that. We may do that ourselves, but our wives, our girlfriends, our female friends are far less likely to do it.
The reason for this is testosterone.
And they know this more and more and more. It’s not just the very obvious evidence that’s there before our eyes. And people will tell you ‘oh, well, it’s just society forcing it on boys’. Anyone who’s got a boy and a girl as kids, like I have – it’s not society. There’s a difference. And there’s a difference from year dot.
But they’ve now done a lot of studies on transgender people. And we now know incontrovertibly what happens to people and what happens to the female brain when you give it testosterone. And we know what happens to the male brain when you suppress testosterone and introduce female hormones. Do you know what happens to the female brain when you give it to testosterone?
BEN: I imagine it’s prototypically male behaviour.
NICK: It’s good and bad. That’s why when people try to say there’s no difference between the sexes, it drives me insane. Because by trying to suggest there’s no difference, when things go awry or there are differences, we start to question ourselves – our innate beings, our innate core.
I mean, why are all the shooters in America, the mass shooters, why are they all men? They cross colour boundaries, by the way – that’s a myth. They cross colour boundaries; it’s pretty much according to the demographic of the United States of the shooters, right? But it’s all men.
It’s mental health problems; it’s mental illness; they’re mentally ill. But are they being repressed in schools? They’re not being given the help they need, but are they being told ‘you should be this, you should be that’? So, what happens to the female brain when you give it testosterone? Let’s say two things. First of all, the female brain on testosterone improves its spatial awareness. Do you know what that means?
BEN: I can imagine there would be some positive applications in the gym, for sure.
NICK: It’s good and bad. That’s why these, that’s why when people try to say there’s no difference between the sexes, it drives me insane. Because by trying to suggest there’s no difference when things go awry or there are differences, we start to question ourselves, our innate beings, our innate core. I mean, why are all the shooters in America, the mass shooters, why are they all men? The cross colour boundaries, by the way, that’s a myth. The cross colour boundaries; it’s pretty much according to the demographic of the United States of the shooters, right? But it’s all men. It’s mental health problems; it’s mental illness; they’re mentally ill but are they being repressed in schools? Are they being told, you know, that they’re not being given the help they need but are they being told ‘you should be this, you should be that’? So, what happens to the female brain when you give it testosterone? Let’s say two things. First of all, the female brain on testosterone improves its spatial awareness. Do you know what that means?
BEN: I can imagine there’d be some positive applications in the gym for sure.
NICK: Forget the gym, in real life, in real life. Would you like me to tell you what is a common stereotype with women and driving? That they can’t park their car, right? Now, I’m not saying all women cannot park cars. I’m not; that’s not true. But if you give a female brain testosterone, spatial awareness improves and the ability to park cars, for instance, improves. What happens when you take testosterone away from a female brain? Sorry. When you introduce testosterone into a female brain, what’s the other key thing that happens in terms of their interaction with society in their behaviour?
BEN: Become more assertive or dominant?
NICK: They become more assertive, more aggressive, more dominant and less empathetic. And empathy is the key to communication. So, there are differences, and these differences are one of the reasons why women live longer than men. Women are more careful. Women are more careful. Who would you trust? When you see someone driving a car, you see a kid driving a car – a teenager driving a car. I don’t know the statistics between bad teenage girls and bad teenage boys, but I’m going to be willing to bet that the bad teenage girls get in many accidents, right, and prangs all the time. And the bad teenage boys kill people.
NICK: Yeah. No sense of self-preservation. That’s one of the reasons. And then the society, because society says ‘you have got to go out and you’ve got to take risks’ to the boys. Sometimes the boys are told, if you don’t take your risk, you know, you got to be a winner.
Society tells boys to take risks, but who’s created society? We have. So, in the days of magazines, the female magazines would cover certain topics. Why? And the male magazines would cover certain topics. Why? Because those topics are the ones that sell. You’ve worked in magazines.
You know, magazines didn’t use to have political agendas. So, all that they’re going to focus on is what sells? What do women want? What’s the primary motivator? I mean, you know, we were getting into evolutionary psychology and genetics and everything. What are men wired to do? They’re wired to procreate widely. Women are not wired to procreate widely. What happens to women? I’m delving into too much depth here, now, and we’re going off-topic.
Do you know what happens to a woman when she’s pregnant? The type of man that she finds attractive changes because she then goes for a more nurturing look; they’ve done all the studies. There’s a less alpha look that they go for, and it’s more nurturing. And then, after she’s had the baby, it changes back. So, we can’t fight. You know, what are we? We’re animals, right? We’re just animals. And we’re trying fight that wiring, and there’s a fine line between fighting it and riding it to best practice if you like. Does that make sense?
BEN: Yeah, definitely. So this wiring, I imagine a lot of men probably aren’t conscious about this wiring, and about the hormones, and about the differences.
NICK: Not at all. Not at all, yeah.
BEN: Is part of taking control of your health; becoming conscious of this, of biology and evolution and understanding this and finding strategies to kind of work around that?
NICK: That’s a great point. I think being an adult, whatever your goal, whatever your gender, whoever you are, is about being mindful of who you are, where you come from, what you want, and what’s best for you.
You don’t have to think about genetics and hormones or anything else. You just have to go, ‘this is going to work for me, the short term. This is going to work for me in the medium term. And this is going to work for me best in the long term.’ And you have to marry those three things together. And then it’s about your risk profile. Maybe you love driving fast cars. Don’t be a d******d and drive a fast car on a busy road. But you know what, if you love driving fast cars, go on a racetrack, then it’s your risk, and it’s on your head.
KEEP UP WITH THE LATEST FROM OUR MEN’S HEALTH SERIES. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN AS NICK SPEAKS ABOUT WHY IT’S IMPORTANT FOR MEN TO IMPROVE TESTOSTERONE