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Biology 103
2003 Second Paper
On Serendip

Male Menopause: Fact or Fiction?

Enor Wagner

"Male menopause is a lot more fun than female menopause. With female menopause you gain weight and get hot flashes. Male menopause - you get to date young girls and drive motorcycles." (11)

While 'male menopause' has provided both sexes a variety of jokes and frustration, there are researchers and scientists studying the alleged condition with great seriousness. Those who support the existence of male menopause feel strongly that its affects on the male mind and body should be regarded with the same credence that society attributes to the female menopause.

Male Menopause begins with declining testosterone levels and is eventually characterized by the following symptoms: hair loss, depression, a slower immune system, weight gain, less stamina for physical activity, forgetfulness, irritability, and loss of or reduced interest in sex. (5) Impotence may also occur. Usually this "change" arises between the ages of 40 and 55, although it has been known to transpire as early as 35 and as late as 65. (6) Several different clinical terms exist for the popularized term "male menopause" such as "andropause" or "viropause". (2) Andropause was named for the hormone "androgen" which is essentially testosterone. It is also the name of the therapy with which they treat a man suffering from male menopause. This treatment comes in the form of injection, skin patches or liquid gel. (5) In order to be diagnosed with male menopause, one must have reached the eligible age then endure a physical exam wherein blood samples will be taken. These samples are tested for hormone levels. If these blood samples demonstrate low levels of androgen and the patient seems to be suffering from the symptoms associated with male menopause, a physician will most likely prescribe a proper hormone replacement treatment.

There are a number of arguments against the possibility of there existing such a thing as "male menopause". First, it has been estimated that approximately 25 million American men are currently going through male menopause and researchers expect that number to double by the year 2020. (6) However this hypothesized statistic does not seem realistic. Such a statement implies that more men will go through the change in the future than are going through it today. How can the number of men afflicted double? It is not contagious, and there is no biological proof that such a gene exists that may help yield the affects of male menopause.

The second objection to the term "male menopause" is that it does not occur in ALL men as it does in all women. At least, research does not show it affecting all men. In a woman's case, she is biologically predestined to endure menopause. Her chance of escaping the most feared female phase of life is as unlikely as men ever attending Bryn Mawr undergrad. For men, there is a percentage that applies to male menopause, for females it is simply a fact of life.

Lastly, the term menopause has been attributed to women for a reason. The prefix 'meno' comes from the latin root 'menses' which means menstruation, while the suffix 'pause' signifies a halt. Women experience menopause because their levels of estrogen, upon reaching a certain age, drastically drop, causing their menstruation cycles to cease. When men undergo so-called "male menopause" or "andropause" their hormone levels slowly decrease, not abruptly. And while men may suffer from sexual side effects or loss of sexual appetite, their ability to conceive offspring is in no sense taken away. Thus, if there exists such a thing as male menopause it should be properly renamed for the connotations that ensue are false and misleading.

Once the term "male menopause" has been rightly named, it is understandable that certain symptoms, health problems, and its predictable timing lead the public to justify "andropause" as the male equivalent to the female "menopause". However, with this misapprehension clarified, the similar experience of hormone depletion in both men and women is cause for concern. If women have been supplemented with estrogen as a populace once menopause occurs, and men have altogether not been, could this be the reason that women tend to live longer than men? In America the average life expectancy of a man is 74, (8) for women it is 80. (9) Do the supplemented hormones augment the life expectancy in women? Do neglected hormone deficiencies take a toll on the aging process? It is true. If a person has hormone levels lower than they had in their younger years, the depletion will eventually lead to a more rapid aging process. Perhaps, if society treated 'male menopause' as gravely as they treated female menopause; urging men to test their hormone levels once they reach a certain age, men would eventually live as long as women do.

One of the problems with society is its obsession with 'the male mid-life crisis', a hopeless sitcom cliché. (1) Most people believe that the terms 'male menopause' and 'mid-life crisis' are interchangeable. However, they mean completely different things. Andropause (male menopause) occurs due the declining in androgen in some men at mid points in their lives. Men usually experience a midlife crisis as a result of the change, because they do not know how to deal with their lessening hormones.(10)

While there are many differences between male and female menopause, one similarity rises above tying men and women into one undeniably human knot of anatomical fate: all women and most men suffer from hormone depletion past a certain age. It should be taken into consideration that hormone replacement therapy is not a natural process, thus if it did not exist what would happen? Would a certain age point inevitably mark a genderless phase of life? Women would have low or no estrogen levels and men, since the number suffering from male menopause is allegedly increasing, would eventually lose their testosterone. Would the elderly become an androgynous human species, with only the once-reproductive parts of a woman and man? Would this breed make society reflect on the trivial gender wars and gender discrimination that exists today and wonder what it was all for? If we eventually all become just human, what is the point of stereotypes and unequal pay and gentleman's clubs and feminism? Shouldn't it all be useless debate and tiresome justifications if we eventually all naturally become genderless anyways?

While the genderless proposition may be a bit extreme, it is still a necessary question we must ask ourselves in considering the possibility of male menopause as a biological truth. It is obvious that male and female menopause cannot be parallel for reasons of syntax and universality and biological repercussions, enough comparisons can be made between the two midlife trials to relate them with one another.


1)CNN Science Page, article produced by CNN entitled "Male Menopause: Is It for Real?" explains the differences between male menopause and the male midlife crisis

2)CNN Science Page, another article to follow up the first which explains androgen treatment therapy

3)CSUN Research Page, this page offers links to different areas of interest in male menopause

4)BBC Science, article argueing against the possibility of male menopause, instead calls it laziness

5)Monterey Clinic Page, article called "Andropause, the Male Menopause" explains the treatments available for men undergoing andropause, also offers a number of statistical information relating to male menopause

6)Today's Healthy News, an article relating to male menopause which discusses the alleged augmention in the number of men that will experience male menopause

7)Human Development Report, provides the average male life expectancy statistics for all countries

8)Human Development Report, provides the average female life expectancy statistics for all countries

9)ABC Science, short article by ABC questioning the reality of male menopause

10)ABC Interview, interview with Jed Diamond, author of Male Menopause, a 1998 best seller. who used to be a disbeleiver in male menopause but now firmly credits the possibility of a male 'change'

11)Women Joke Page, Male menopause joke

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