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Work and Testosterone

Can your work and the state of your career affect your testosterone?  Well, of course, it can, but I have noticed several questions about this on the forum:  there seems to be considerable confusion.  For example, look at this man’s post:

“Why is it necessary to have a Testosterone test as close to 8am as possible? Is this because it is assumed that one goes to bed at midnight and sleeps for a solid 8 hours? Is it connected to daylight or circadian rhythm? Does it have to be done at 8am or as close as possible? Because of my disturbed routine, I go to bed late and get up late. So I think that my ‘8am’ is actually 11am.” [10]

We’ll cover shift work below, but notice that this man was very certain if it could have any sort of negative impace on health.  It is my impression that most men do not realize just how important their job is to their health and hormones. Plus, most men feel, “Well, I have to work and I have bills to pay!”

Okay, that’s true, but our exact job position is not usually set in concret and there is no good reason for us to be trapped indefinitely in ugly financial and career situations.  Below I will show the many ways that this can negatively alter testosterone levels:

1.  Shift Work.  Many men feel it is necessary to take on shift work. And, of course, the wheels of industry, call centers, and many other sectors of the economy spin out jobs that fit this sector.  While these jobs may increase your income, they are very likely to lower your testosterone. Most of us know that our bodies and brains are naturally tuned to a dark/light circadian cycle that affects hormones like melatonin. However, as I document in my link on Sleep and Testosterone, this same cycle prime engine of your testosterone production.  And any disruption or alteration will generally lower your testosterone output.

Shift work is the best example of this and several studies show that shift work can negatively impact your androgens.  One study of shift workers found exactly what one would expect:  increased cortisol and decreased testosterone output. [1] However, the reasons for this actually may have less to do with circadian cycle disruption that how much one likes their shift work.

It should be pointed out that one study felt that the primary problem with shift work related to satisfaction/dissatisfaction, i.e. they noted lower testosterone levels and increased need for recovery among dissatisfied workers. [4] This model makes a lot of sense, since the brain and one’s attitude can make a very big difference in testosterone levels.

NOTE:  Shift work can also increase several big risk factors for erectile dysfunction.  One of the big ones that they discovered were elevated homocystein levels in older shift works. [2] This means increased risk for cardiovascular disease and likely erectile issues as well.  Shift work also puts you at risk for many other negative medical conditions that could affect your hardness factor, including obesity and prostate cancer. [3]

Did you know you can inexpensively do your own testing for most hormones? The industry leader is Discounted Labs..

2.  Stress.  One massive study of 21,000 Victorians found that about 13% of men had stress-related depression related to their job.  [5] In other words, about 1 in 7 men in this study were depressed simply because their work stress was too high.  Some study works shows that repetitive work, bullying, isolation, job insecurity – just what you’d expected, eh? – are the items that can increase job stress.

One other very important job-related factor has been found that can increase stress:  long hours.  Yep, the more overtime the more likely one is to be depressed and have many other psychological and physical issues. [6]

Now none of these has actually been tied to lower testosterone, but that is simply because researchers have not studied it yet.  Depression is strongly associated with higher cortisol and lower testosterone levels, something I discuss in my link on  Depression and Testosterone.

3. Cortisol.  This is really not a separate item, but is subset of stress.  Cortisol is, after all, the “stress hormone.”  However, almost anything that will raise cortisol will lower testosterone and certain work issues have been found to raise cortisol.  For example, work overload [7], white collar work overload [8], overly high effort, effort reward imbalance and overcommitment. [9] Again, this isn’t rocket science.  Chances are if work is stressing you out you are going to know about it and know why.

4. Obesity.  Your job can also increase your body fat.  Some people will immediately object to such a statement, insisting that is it is “calories in, calories out” that counts and nothing else.  But this ignores how a poor working environment can negatively impact things like stress, insulin and appetite levels.  If you’re in a negative work environment, it is going to be much easier to put on weight is the bottom linke.  One medical newletter word it like this:  “In particular, the risk of obesity may increase in highdemand, low-control work environments, and for those who work long hours.”

Now, again, these studies did not show a decrease in testosterone directly.  However, anything that increases body fat significantly will put your testosterone at risk.  In fact, if you put on enough weight, you can actually induce a kind of secondary hypogonadism, where you turn off the signaling for testosterone production for the pituitary and hypothalamus.

REFERENCES:

1)   Eur J of Applied Physiology, 1990, 60:288-292, “Effect of shift work on the night-time secretory patterns of melatonin, prolactin, cortisol and testosterone”

2) Chronobiology Intl, 2007, 24(1):115-128, “Elevated Plasma Homocysteine in older Shift Workers: A Potential Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Morbidity”

3) Am. J. Epidemiol, 15 Sep 2006, 164(6):549-555, “Prospective Cohort Study of the Risk of Prostate Cancer among Rotating-Shift Workers: Findings from the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study”

4) Journal of Applied Physiology, Nov 1 2003, 95(5):2099-2105, “Hormonal changes in satisfied and dissatisfied shift workers across a shift cycle”

5) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-06/uom-2vs052808.php

6) http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.2006.086900

7) Stress and Health, April 1998 , 14(2):91-97(7), “Increased free cortisol secretion after awakening in chronically stressed individuals due to work overload”

8) Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 1979, 23(3):181 192, “White collar work load and cortisol: Disruption of a circadian rhythm by job stress?”

9) Biological Psychology, Oct 2006, 73(3):280 287, “Psychosocial factors at home and at work and levels of salivary cortisol”

10) http://peaktestosterone.com/forum/index.php?topic=420.msg3783#msg3783

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