Men who socialise more produce less testosterone than men who live an isolated existence. It’s possible to deduce this from an animal study that researchers at the University of Padova in Italy.
Social environment determines to a large extent the amount of Testosterone that men produce. Athletes, for example, produce more testosterone when they win a competition – especially if it’s a home meeting. Even just thinking about previous conquests can boost athletes’ testosterone levels. That’s why biologists sometimes refer to testosterone as ‘the winners’ hormone’.
According to the Italians, this view of matters is not entirely correct. They measured the hormone levels in the blood of two groups of mice. One group had lived from birth in a cage with five other mice; the other group lived in individual cages.
When, after two and six months, the researchers measured the amount of testosterone and DHEA circulating in the mice’s bodies, they observed on both occasions that the mice living in isolation manufactured three times as much testosterone. The DHEA concentration was also higher in the isolated animals. So testosterone is not just the ‘winners’ hormone’ but also the ‘hormone of the lonely’.
The researchers suspect that living in groups is stressful for animals, and that this causes their testosterone level to decrease.
Before the advent of synthetic testosterone it was not unusual for athletes, strongmen and gladiators to live in relative isolation, devoting themselves to their sport or discipline away from society. Perhaps the Italian study helps understand why this was so.