Depressed man. The link between testosterone and mental health


Testosterone and Mental Health: The Link between Low T and Low Mood

June is Men's Mental Health Awareness Month! For many men, talking about mental health and hormonal issues can feel uncomfortable or even taboo. But you are not alone, and we need to talk about it. Low testosterone is more common than you might think, and its impact on mood is significant.

New England Research Institute scientists analyzed data from almost 1,500 men enrolled in the Boston Area Community Health Survey and found that 1 in 4 men over the age of 30 suffer from low testosterone levels. 

Additionally, nearly 1 in 10 men experience some form of depression or anxiety but less than half seek treatment.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like fatigue, low libido, erectile dysfunction, depression or anxiety, keep reading to learn the connection between low T and mental health, signs and symptoms of low testosterone, and how to raise testosterone and mood naturally.

The Link between Low T and Low Mood

Testosterone is often thought of as a hormone responsible only for physical traits like muscle mass and libido, but it also plays a crucial role in mental health. Low testosterone levels (often referred to as "low T") can significantly impact mood and mental well-being.

Testosterone levels tend to decrease normally as you get older, but they can also fluctuate for many reasons. Studies show these changes in testosterone can impact your mood in different ways. And these changes can occur in response to many different factors, including stress, lack of sleep, changes in your diet, aging and increasing or decreasing your physical activity.

Testosterone influences the brain in several ways. It modulates neurotransmitter systems, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which are critical for mood regulation. Low levels of testosterone can lead to an imbalance in these neurotransmitters, potentially causing or exacerbating symptoms of anxiety and depression.

  1. Serotonin: Testosterone enhances serotonin production, a neurotransmitter known for its mood-stabilizing effects. Low testosterone can lead to reduced serotonin levels, which is often associated with depression.
  2. Dopamine: This neurotransmitter is crucial for motivation and pleasure. Testosterone supports dopamine synthesis, and low levels can result in decreased motivation and pleasure, core symptoms of depression.
  3. GABA: Testosterone can enhance GABAergic activity, which has calming effects on the brain. Low testosterone may reduce this activity, potentially increasing anxiety.

Signs and symptoms of low testosterone and depression

Low testosterone and depression share a lot of the same symptoms, so it's important to get tested for both by a physician and mental health professional. 

Shared common symptoms include:

  • Low libido
  • Difficulty getting or maintaining an erection
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Low mood
  • Lack of motivation
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Poor sleep
  • Hair loss
  • Increased body fat
  • Poor memory

Natural ways to boost testosterone levels

It is definitely important to get tested by a doctor for low hormone levels and depression or anxiety, especially if you have thoughts of suicide. 

There are also many foundational ways to keep your hormones balanced and boost your mood.


Eating a diet rich in whole foods and low in inflammatory foods can support hormones and mood. There are certain foods that can boost testosterone levels. These are:


  • Lean Proteins: Chicken, fish, and lean beef are excellent sources of protein, which is essential for hormone production. Proteins provide the building blocks for the synthesis of testosterone.
  • Healthy Fats: Nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil provide healthy fats that provide the building blocks for cholesterol production, which is a precursor to testosterone synthesis.
  • Zinc-Rich Foods: Oysters, beef, spinach, and pumpkin seeds are high in zinc. Zinc acts as a catalyst in the biochemical pathway that produces testosterone.
  • Magnesium-Rich Foods: Spinach, almonds, and black beans rich in magnesium help in the conversion of cholesterol to testosterone and supports overall metabolic health.

On the other hand, there are also foods that have been shown to lower testosterone.

In a 2021 study, men who ate diets high in refined sugar and saturated fats had lower total testosterone levels than those who ate less inflammatory foods.

Additional foods that lower testosterone include:


Certain supplements can be added to your diet to boost testosterone levels. It's important to note that supplements are meant to be added to a nutritious diet, not replace a nutritious diet.


  • Magnesium: One study showed that magnesium increased free and total testosterone levels, especially when paired with daily exercise. It is recommended that men have at least 400–420 mg per day of magnesium, which can come from food or a combination of food and supplements
  • Probiotics: Gut health is linked to hormone regulation and mental health via the gut-brain axis, and probiotics can help maintain a healthy gut flora. A balanced gut microbiome can support efficient hormone metabolism and regulation.
  • B Complex Vitamins: These vitamins are essential for energy production and mood regulation. B vitamins, particularly B6 and B12, play roles in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and hormone regulation.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Known for their anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3s support brain health and hormone production. They can help lower levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), making more testosterone available in the bloodstream.
  • GABA and L-Theanine: These amino acids have been shown to help reduce anxiousness and promote relaxation, indirectly supporting better testosterone levels by reducing stress. Lower stress levels can prevent the overproduction of cortisol, which negatively impacts testosterone.


One study found that resistance training three times per week for a month resulted in higher levels of testosterone immediately after the workouts and over time. This would seem to indicate that weightlifting can boost testosterone. Research also shows that when you’re weightlifting, you want to minimize rest periods for the largest possible effect. 

Get Enough ZZZs

Your body turns up the testosterone when you fall asleep. The levels peak when you start dreaming and stay there until you wake up. But daytime testosterone levels can drop up to 15% when you get only 5 hours of sleep. Aim for 7 or 8 hours every night, even if it means a shift in your schedule or a limit to your late-night plans. Magnesium, GABA and L-Theanine have also been shown to support quality sleep!

Use Glass, Not Plastic

Be careful about what you store your leftovers in. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical found in some plastics, cans, and other food packaging. It can mess with your hormone-making process. After 6 months, men who worked around BPA every day had lower testosterone levels than men who didn't.


Men, if you are experiencing low mood, anxiety, fatigue, low libido or erectile dysfunction, don't be afraid to speak up. There is plenty you can do to support testosterone levels such as a healthy diet, supplementing, weight lifting, getting proper sleep, and switching from plastic to glass. It's also important to speak to a healthcare professional to test for low T, depression and anxiety.

The information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please consult with a physician before adding new supplements to your routine.