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Int J Psychiatry Med. 2013;46(2):203-21.

Gender differences in serum testosterone and cortisol in patients with major depressive disorder compared with controls.

Author information

  • 1Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan.
  • 2Juntendo University Koshigaya Hospital, Japan.
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine and Juntendo University Koshigaya Hospital, Japan.



Testosterone may have a role distinct from cortisol in the pathophysiology of depression. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis affects the functions of sex steroid hormones through interaction with corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). The objective of this study was to investigate differences in serum levels of testosterone and cortisol in male and female patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).


Participants included 87 inpatients with MDD at Juntendo University Koshigaya Hospital. Serum levels of testosterone and cortisol were assessed at admission. Matched controls included 128 healthy individuals. Data from MDD patients and controls were compared separately for men and women. Correlations between serum hormone levels and scores on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) of patients were assessed by sex. Effects of various factors on testosterone and cortisol were analyzed using multiple regression analysis.


In male patients with MDD, a significant negative correlation was seen between testosterone levels and the "retardation" score of HAM-D. However, serum testosterone levels were not significantly different in either male or female MDD patients compared with controls. Serum testosterone was negatively associated with the number of depressive episodes in male patients with MDD. Serum cortisol levels in female patients were significantly increased compared with female controls with no significant correlations between cortisol levels and HAM-D scores.


The negative correlation between the sub-score of the HAM-D and testosterone may be associated with the biological pathophysiology of male depression. Findings of serum cortisol levels in women may suggest distinct characteristics of these hormones in men and women with MDD.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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