Objective: Serum testosterone concentrations are affected by factors unrelated to hypothalamo-pituitary-testicular axis pathology. We evaluated the impact of sociodemographic, lifestyle and medical factors, on serum testosterone and sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG) in men aged 40-69 years. Design: Cross-sectional analysis of 208,677 community-dwelling men from the UK Biobank. Measurements: We analysed associations of different factors with serum testosterone and SHBG (immunoassays) and calculated free testosterone (cFT), using smoothed centile plots, linear mixed models and effect size estimates. Results: Median (interquartile range) for serum testosterone was 11.6 (9.4-14.1) nmol/L, SHBG 36.9 (27.9-48.1) nmol/L and cFT 213 (178-255) pmol/L. Age and BMI were inversely associated with testosterone and cFT, while SHBG was associated with age and inversely with BMI (all P <.001). Living with a partner, (South) Asian ethnicity, never or previous smoker and some medical conditions were associated with lower testosterone. Poultry or fish eater, and higher physical activity were associated with higher testosterone (all P <.001). Testosterone was lowered by ~0.5 nmol/L across ages, ~1.5 nmol/L for BMI 30 vs 25 kg/m2, ~2 nmol/L for (South) Asian ethnicity, living with partner, college/university qualifications, low red meat eater, insufficient physical activity and 0.3-1.0 nmol/L with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Different combinations of these factors varied serum testosterone by ~4 nmol/L, SHBG by ~30 nmol/L and cFT by ~60 pmol/L. Conclusions: The identified modifiable risk factors support lifestyle-based interventions in men with low testosterone concentrations. Considering sociodemographic, lifestyle and medical factors facilitates more personalized interpretation of testosterone testing results with respect to existing reference ranges.
- calculated free testosterone
- sex hormone–binding globulin
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism