Do You Suffer From Low Testosterone? I Can Help!

By Robert Wright

I have a question for you men out there: Are your erections less strong? "Than what?" you may ask. To which I reply: Don't ask me! I'm not the one who designed the "Low T Quiz."

The Low T Quiz is a ten-question online survey designed to tell whether you suffer from low testosterone. It was put together by Abbott Laboratories--a company that, coincidentally, sells a prescription testosterone supplement called Androgel.

There's a good piece in Slate today by a doctor, Craig Bowron, who asks whether Abbott isn't overselling this "Low T" thing. He writes, "Are falling testosterone levels a 'mistake' of aging, like arthritis--a complication that should be treated? Or are they a natural, wholesome change, and one not to be tampered with?"

It's an interesting question, but I wonder about its implied premise--that we should be equating "natural" and "wholesome" to begin with.

High testosterone is "natural" in young males and is part of the chemical formula that contributes to some familiar young-male features. Those features include wholesome things (joie de vivre!) and unwholesome things (aggression!). By the same token, being an aging male, with a naturally declining testosterone level, can involve wholesome things (less aggression!) and unwholesome things (less joie de vivre!).

Since whether something is "natural" doesn't tell us much about whether it's good or bad, I'd be inclined to ditch the "natural" question altogether and focus on the good/bad question. And by those lights, I'd guess testosterone is a pretty blunt instrument, restoring some bad parts of youth along with some good.

Of course, there's also the question of whether we're talking about what's good and bad for the individual or for society. After all, some men like being aggressive, even if others have to pay for their aggression. And if an aging man starts taking Androgel, and has extramarital affairs he wouldn't have otherwise had, he may be delighted, but others may not.

Here's a question: When the FDA appraises a drug like Androgel, and looks for bad side effects, is it allowed to include things that are bad at the societal but not necessarily the individual level? And, if it's not, should it be?

As I await the answers to these questions, I'll leave you with the Low T quiz. Feel free to share your scores in the comments section. Or, instead, you can just let us guess your testosterone level by how you behave toward your fellow commenters.

1. Do you have a decrease in libido (sex drive)?
2. Do you have a lack of energy?
3. Do you have a decrease in strength and/or endurance?
4. Have you lost height?
5. Have you noticed a decrease in your enjoyment of life?
6. Are you sad and/or grumpy?
7. Are your erections less strong?
8. Have you noticed a recent deterioration in your ability to play sports?
9. Are you falling asleep after dinner?
10. Has there been a recent deterioration in your work performance?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/do-you-suffer-from-low-testosterone-i-can-help/255419/