Men behaving sadly

Implications of research on testosterone and aggression levels in sheep

source: Rachel Nowack
New Scientist March 2 2002 p4

Irritable male syndrome is a condition found in Soay sheep following a drop in their testosterone levels in winter, after the rutting season. The research was carried out by the Human Reproductive Sciences Unit, Edinburgh, which is run by the Medical Research Council. Researcher, Gerald Lincoln, studied eight rams, and the frequency of their fights. He found that rams with low testosterone levels were at greater risk of hurting themselves. Their fights changed from ritualistic battles of the rutting season to irrational attacks by nervous animals when the season had ended. Irritable male syndrome has also been found in other animals when their breeding season ends, including red deer, Indian elephants and reindeer.

It is possible that human males may suffer from this condition, though human males do not usually suffer such dramatic falls in testosterone levels as rams do. Stress and other factors can lead to falls in testosterone levels of primates and other animals, as corticosteroid levels rise. It is unclear whether men under stress would benefit from testosterone therapy, since raising levels of testosterone can bring side effects, such as greater vulnerability to heart disease. It is also unclear what the normal testosterone level for a human male should be.