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Testosterone does not have an influence on success

While higher testosterone is associated with greater athletic success, a new study from the University of Bristol shows that testosterone levels are not very significant in everyday life. The research suggests that the importance of testosterone is highly overrated.

Previous studies have found a link between testosterone and socioeconomic position, such as income and educational achievement.  

The researchers set out to investigate whether testosterone can actually influence socioeconomic position, or if socioeconomic circumstances affect testosterone.

The experts used an approach called Mendelian randomization in a sample of 306,248 UK adults from the UK Biobank. 

The researchers examined how testosterone  influenced socioeconomic position, including income, employment status, neighborhood-level deprivation, and educational qualifications. The study also looked at the effects of testosterone on health and risk-taking behavior.  

“There’s a widespread belief that a person’s testosterone can affect where they end up in life. Our results suggest that, despite a lot of mythology surrounding testosterone, its social implications may have been overstated,” said study co-author Dr. Amanda Hughes.

Just like earlier in studies, the researchers found that men with higher testosterone had higher household income, lived in less deprived areas, and were more likely to have a university degree and a skilled job. Among women, high testosterone levels were associated with lower socioeconomic position, including lower household income, living in a more deprived area, and lower chance of having a university degree. 

Importantly, the study results do not suggest that testosterone-linked genetic variants were associated with any outcome for men or women. 

The researchers concluded that there is little evidence that testosterone meaningfully affects socioeconomic position, health, or risk-taking in men or women. 

“Higher testosterone in men has previously been linked to various kinds of social success. A study of male executives found that testosterone was higher for those who had more subordinates. A study of male financial traders found that higher testosterone correlated with greater daily profits,” said Dr. Hughes.

“Other studies have reported that testosterone is higher for more highly educated men, and among self-employed men, suggesting a link with entrepreneurship.”

“Such research has supported the widespread idea that testosterone can influence success by affecting behavior. There is evidence from experiments that testosterone can make a person more assertive or more likely to take risks – traits which can be rewarded in the labour market, for instance during wage negotiations. But there are other explanations. For example, a link between higher testosterone and success might simply reflect an influence of good health on both.”

“Alternatively, socioeconomic circumstances could affect testosterone levels. A person’s perception of their own success could influence testosterone: in studies of sports matches, testosterone has been found to rise in the winner compared to the loser.”

The study is published in the journal Science Advances.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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