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Think Testosterone Can Lead to Success? Think Again

Testosterone is supposed to be what makes a man a man. But does it make a man successful? New research says no.


According to newswise.com, new research has found little evidence that testosterone meaningfully influences life chances for men or women. In fact, the study suggests that despite the social myths surrounding testosterone, it could be much less important than previously thought.


"It is already known that in men testosterone is linked with socioeconomic position, such as income or educational qualifications. Researchers tried to find out whether this is because testosterone actually affects socioeconomic position, as opposed to socioeconomic circumstances affecting testosterone, or health affecting both," the website reports.


In a random sample of 306,248 UK adults from UK Biobank, they explored testosterone's influence on socioeconomic position, including income, employment status, neighborhood-level deprivation, and educational qualifications; on health, including self-rated health and BMI, and on risk-taking behavior.


“There's a widespread belief that a person's testosterone can affect where they end up in life," Dr Amanda Hughes, Senior Research Associate in Epidemiology in Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences (PHS), tells newswise. "Our results suggest that, despite a lot of mythology surrounding testosterone, its social implications may have been over-stated.”


Hold on, though, men. There is some evidence that having higher testosterone levels can lead you to higher household income, live in less deprived areas, and be more likely to have a university degree and a skilled job.


Alas, in women, the story is different. "In women, higher testosterone was linked to lower socioeconomic position, including lower household income, living in a more deprived area, and lower chance of having a university degree," newswise quotes the research. Consistent with previous evidence, higher testosterone was associated with better health for men and poorer health for women, and greater risk-taking behavior for men.


According to newswise, the research team concluded that there is little evidence that testosterone meaningfully affects socioeconomic position, health, or risk-taking in men or women. The study suggests that - despite the mythology surrounding testosterone - it might be much less important than previously claimed.


“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," newswise quotes Dr. Hughes. "A study of male financial traders found that higher testosterone correlated with greater daily profits. 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 labor market, for instance during wage negotiations," she continues.


"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.”

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