What IS the truth about the ‘manopause’? As Robbie Williams blames declining testosterone for killing his libido and triggering insomnia, doctors say disputed phenomenon IS real but argue term is hugely ‘misleading’
- Drs say andropause symptoms can often be caused by other health conditions
- READ MORE: Is mobile phone use behind a lowering of men’s sperm counts?
Is thinning hair and a lack of libido a natural part of ageing for men, or is something more sinister at work?
Pop-star Robbie Williams certainly thinks so, and is the latest man to blame a raft of health woes on the so-called ‘manopause’ or ‘male menopause’ — a comparison the NHS brands ‘unhelpful’.
Testosterone levels do undoubtedly plummet with age, what number of protons does lithium have experts acknowledge.
However, this happens gradually as men get older, unlike the sudden crash marking the end of fertility in women.
Symptoms synonymous with the male equivalent of the menopause — sometimes called andropause — include weight gain, erectile dysfunction and insomnia.
Robbie Williams claims he’s going through the ‘manopause’ suffering health woes. The former Take That singer pictured shortly after leaving the group in 1996 (left) aged 22 and pictured now at 49
Testosterone levels peak in young adulthood, around age 20, but decline by about 1 per cent annually after age 30
Robbie and his wife Ayda Field, 44, have admitted they barely have sex anymore, with a lack of libido another commonly attributed symptom of the manopause
Yet health chiefs and experts both say these, and others, are typically ‘nothing to do with hormones’.
Instead, the stress of getting older — such as work or relationship issues and worries about parents ageing — can hamper libido.
Even the dreaded ‘midlife crisis’ could be to blame, according to the NHS’s own page on the disputed topic.
Common ‘male menopause’ causes might also include a lack of sleep, a bad diet and drinking too much alcohol, it says.
Former Take That singer Robbie told The Sun how he believed his health woes were, in part, due to the condition.
READ MORE: Could your PHONE be making you infertile? Alarming study on plunging sperm counts sparks warning for men to ‘be conscious’ of using their mobile too much
The team, from the University of Geneva, collected data on 2,886 men aged 18 to 22, who provided a semen sample. Participants also answered questions on their mobile phone use and where they placed it when not using it
‘The hair is thinning, the testosterone has left the building, the serotonin is not really here and the dopamine said goodbye a long time ago,’ he said.
‘I’ve used up all of the natural good stuff. I’ve got the manopause.’
The 49-year-old also claimed to be suffering from a lack of energy and admitted he and his wife Ayda Field, 44, now barely have sex.
While injections of testosterone to boost his levels of the hormone helped, Robbie said he was forced to stop using them.
‘I was on testosterone for a while but, because I’m an addict, that had to stop. I got these massive square shoulders and started to look like a doorman. It wasn’t a good look,’ he said.
‘But the sex we had when I was on testosterone was incredible; it was all the time. We were insatiable.’
Much like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for women, men struggling with the drop in testosterone can be offered artificial boosts to help combat symptoms.
This is usually for men whose plunging levels don’t appear to be lifestyle related, suggesting they have late-onset hypogonadism, meaning their testes make too little of the hormone.
Studies estimate that just 2 to 6 per cent of men suffer from late-onset hypogonadism, whereas all women will suffer some form of the menopause.
Testosterone levels begin to rise during puberty, when it causes boys to get deeper voices, bigger muscles and body and facial hair. The hormone also helps the testes create sperm.
Levels peak at 20 before slowly declining as men age, with the fall becoming more pronounced when men reach their 30s — at around 1 per cent every year.
But even then, the consequential effects aren’t overly clear.
Many men don’t tend to experience any symptoms until they reach their late 40s or early 50s.
And, unlike in women, the hormonal change does not render them infertile. Men are able to keep making sperm until their 80s and beyond, in theory.
Menopause marks the point when a woman no longer has periods, marking the end of her fertile window.
Levels of the hormones the ovaries produce — mainly oestrogen and progesterone — drop off.
This usually happens when a woman is between the ages of 45 and 55, with 51 being the UK average, though it can occur earlier.
Almost nine in 10 women going through ‘the change’ suffer symptoms like anxiety, mood swings and low self-esteem.
Like with women, the ‘male menopause’ is used to describe the period in an adult man’s life when his hormone levels crash, causing a host of symptoms that can be life-changing and debilitating — from erectile dysfunction to depression, anxiety and rapid fat gain
Hot flushes, sleeping difficulties, heart palpations, headaches and muscle and joint pain are among a host of physical effects women can simultaneously experience.
Symptoms usually start months or years before the menopause officially begins, as periods start to become irregular. This is called the perimenopause.
And once a women reaches the menopause symptoms can continue for even more years.
The NHS warns these symptoms can have a ‘big impact’ on women’s lives, including on relationships, social life, family life and work.
But the health service is less generous when it comes to describing the andropause.
READ MORE: ‘Manopause’ guidelines: Councils, universities, police forces and fire services draw up ‘male menopause’ policies which let men struggling with falling testosterone work from home, start late or alternate shifts
East Midlands Ambulance Service is reportedly allowing men to take up to a year’s paid leave if they are ill
While acknowledging it as a real condition, the NHS says calling the andropause the ‘male menopause’ isn’t correct.
‘This label is misleading because it suggests the symptoms are the result of a sudden drop in testosterone in middle age, similar to what occurs in the female menopause. This is not true,’ its advice reads.
A testosterone deficiency can cause the same symptoms as those attributed to the andropause, however.
While hypogonadism is usually spotted at birth, where it produces small testes, men can also develop the condition later in life. It is spotted through blood tests designed to measure testosterone levels.
Men who are obese or have type 2 diabetes are particularly at risk of developing the condition in mid-life.
Dr Amr Raheem, an andrologist from private clinic International Andrology London, said terms currently being used to describe low testosterone or hypogonadism were inaccurate and in some cases actually harmful.
‘Equating andropause with terms like “male menopause” or “manopause” is misleading and can perpetuate misconceptions,’ he told MailOnline.
‘Menopause is a well-defined period marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years, accompanied by a rapid decline in oestrogen levels.
‘On the other hand, the decline in testosterone in men is much more gradual, occurring over several years, and not all men experience significant decreases in testosterone levels.’
He added that not only are such comparisons inaccurate but could actually put men off seeking help with symptoms due to feeling emasculated.
‘Terms like “andropause” or “male menopause” may inadvertently contribute to feelings of emasculation or vulnerability, potentially leading some men to avoid discussing their symptoms or seeking medical assistance,’ he said.
‘Clear, accurate, and respectful communication helps destigmatize health issues, encouraging men to come forward, discuss their symptoms openly, and seek the necessary medical support.’
Dr Raheem also warned that while it was vital to raise awareness about hypogonadism and low testosterone, many of its supposed symptoms could be traced to other conditions.
‘There is indeed a risk of overemphasizing the condition or misattributing various symptoms exclusively to low testosterone,’ he said.
Menopause marks the point when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. It is a normal part of ageing and occurs because the ovaries stop producing eggs, meaning a woman can no longer get pregnant naturally. As a result, levels of the hormones the ovaries produce — oestrogen (shown in graphic), progesterone — drop
‘Symptoms such as weight gain, depression, insomnia, and erectile dysfunction are indeed associated with low testosterone, but they can also be indicative of a myriad of other conditions, including metabolic syndrome, chronic stress, poor lifestyle choices, and other chronic illnesses,’ he said.
‘Particularly in the case of erectile dysfunction, it can be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease, a serious health condition that requires immediate attention and management.’
Dr Raheem added: ‘It is imperative for individuals experiencing these symptoms not to self-diagnose or attribute them solely to low testosterone.
‘Instead, they should seek a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional.’
Endocrinologist Dr Naveed Younis, a medic specialising in problems with the body’s hormones at Spire Regency Hospital in Macclesfield, also said the term ‘male menopause’ was misleading.
‘Men do not experience a sudden drop in hormones as women going through menopause do,’ he said.
‘Instead, testosterone levels gradually decrease, and this is clinically referred to as andropause or androgen deficiency in the ageing male.’
Dr Younis added that while some men do suffer from andropause symptoms many of these could also be caused by other lifestyle factors or be exacerbated by them.
‘Lifestyle and psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression, stress, lack of exercise, weight gain, poor sleep and drinking too much alcohol, can also cause or contribute to many of these symptoms,’ he said.
Earlier this month The Daily Mail revealed that dozens of UK councils, universities, police forces and fire services have developed ‘male menopause ‘ policies.
Critics described the protocols as a ‘further erosion of women’s rights’.
Many recommend offering special treatment to help middle-aged men cope with everything from poor sleep to mood swings.
Guidelines include letting sufferers work from home or start late despite the ‘male menopause’ not being a clinically recognised condition.
Some recommendations included letting firefighters swap shifts or ‘work from home on an ad hoc basis if they’ve had a rough night’.
Caroline Ffiske, from campaign group Conservatives For Women, said the woke policies undid ‘years of fighting for menopause recognition’.
‘It’s absolutely ludicrous to take the female menopause and extend that concept to men,’ she said.
‘Women can’t have anything of their own. They can’t have their own spaces, they can’t have their own words and now they can’t even have their own recognition of their bodily differences.
‘It’s absurd and insulting to women that we now have to fight for our illnesses and conditions and further erosion of women’s rights.’
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