September 19, 2022/Men's Health

Why Are Testosterone Levels Decreasing?

Lifestyle choices are often a contributing factor for low-T

Male researching on computer.

When it comes to testosterone levels, odds are you don’t measure up to your father.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Studies show that age-specific testosterone levels in men have been in a slow and consistent decline for several decades. Researchers call the changes “alarming” from an evolutionary point of view.

So, why is this happening? And can the trend be reversed? For analysis and answers, we turned to endocrinologist Kevin Pantalone, DO.

What’s considered low testosterone?

Before we get to numbers, let’s start by gaining an understanding of what we’re talking about. Testosterone is an androgen, or sex hormone.

People of all sexes have testosterone in their system. However, levels are naturally higher in men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB), notes Dr. Pantalone. Within this group, testosterone helps maintain and develop:

  • Sex organs, genitalia and reproductive function.
  • A sense of well-being.
  • Muscle mass.
  • Bone health.
  • Red blood cell count.

Low testosterone, or male hypogonadism, also called low-T, is a condition where your testicles don’t produce enough testosterone. Dr. Pantalone says a low testosterone count (as measured in your blood) for adults is generally considered anything below 250 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl).

The American Urology Association sets the bar a bit higher at 300 ng/dl.

So, are average testosterone levels now considered low?

It’s normal for testosterone levels to decline as people age. The average drop is about 1% per year after age 30.

But ongoing research shows decreases that are unrelated to aging. These studies compare people of the same age in different years. (For example, a 45-year-old man in 1987, 1995 and 2002.)

“So, we’re consistently seeing testosterone levels lower than we’d expect ­because of excessive weight and related health conditions — and that is alarming from a long-term perspective,” says Dr. Pantalone.

But while there’s a downward trend in age-specific testosterone levels, averages haven’t fallen to the point where they’re in the “low” range for the overall population.

But they are edging closer year by year.

Why have testosterone levels declined?

As noted, this non-age-related drop in testosterone levels hasn’t occurred in a vacuum. “We’re seeing more people with their overall health status in decline,” notes Dr. Pantalone. “That may be accelerating the loss of testosterone compared to previous generations.”


Let’s look at some factors that can affect testosterone levels.


The downturn in testosterone levels coincides with higher numbers on the bathroom scale for much of the population … and that’s not just a coincidence.

Excessive weight and elevated BMI (body mass index) measurements put added stress on your body, which seems to affect testosterone production and its natural distribution process, says Dr. Pantalone.

Physical activity

If you lift weights, you also may be lifting your testosterone levels. Exercises such as strength training and high-intensity interval training have been shown to boost testosterone numbers immediately.

“They’ve done studies of men pre- and post-exercise that show testosterone levels increase with activity,” says Dr. Pantalone. “So, if you’re not exercising regularly, you’re not getting that bump.”

Cardio activities don’t offer quite the same boost, though, and endurance activities such as long-distance running and cycling have been shown to lower testosterone levels.

It should be noted, too, that physical activity also plays a factor in maintaining a healthy weight.


Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet puts your body in a position to hum along at optimal levels — and that includes testosterone production. And to make the same point as above, a healthy diet usually leads to a healthy weight, too.

“Increased caloric intake can lead to obesity, and then the cascade effect on your health often starts,” explains Dr. Pantalone.

Several studies indicate that low-fat diets may lead to slightly lower testosterone levels. But researchers note that low-fat diets aren’t associated with overall low testosterone. (So, don’t view the results as a call to eat a high-fat diet, which can contribute to weight gain and other health issues.)


Chronic and excessive drinking ultimately decreases testosterone production, says Dr. Pantalone. (Add it to the list of negatives that come from alcohol abuse.)


Your testosterone levels are typically highest in the morning after your body recharges while sleeping. The process breaks down if your peaceful slumber is disturbed by conditions such as sleep apnea.


“If you disrupt your normal sleep cycle, you’re disrupting your body’s normal rhythm of testosterone production,” says Dr. Pantalone.


Odds are that you’ve come in contact with an endocrine-disrupting chemical, or EDC, at some point today. After all, there are more than 800 EDCs used in plastics and other everyday products that are all around us.

Research on the effect of these “environmental toxins” on hormones such as testosterone is ongoing. There’s no question, though, that exposure to EDCs has increased exponentially over time.

“The environment around us has certainly changed, and those factors may be a contributing cause to declines in testosterone,” notes Dr. Pantalone.

What can you do to boost your testosterone?

There’s no big mystery here: Focus on living healthy.

“It’s normal for a person to experience a drop in testosterone as they age, but we’re seeing that process accelerated in more recent times because of poor overall health,” states Dr. Pantalone. “Actions are compounding the problem.”

The good news? If you’re concerned about your testosterone, making basic lifestyle changes such as exercising more and eating better can improve your numbers. Plus, you’ll be healthier overall.

Talk to your doctor

The truth is, most people don’t know their testosterone level. It’s not a regular screening or health measurement that’s taken. An assessment is typically done if someone has symptoms such as:

  • Low sex drive.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Erectile dysfunction.

If you’re experiencing those symptoms, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider to determine a cause. The issue could be linked to low testosterone, but it could also be something else, too.

“Get checked,” says Dr. Pantalone. “It’s important to learn the reason behind symptoms.”

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

bottle of SARM tablets and liquid, with muscular people in background
March 25, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
SARMs: What’s the Harm?

If you think SARMs are a safe way to build muscle — think again

Upset person with hands over face and storm clouds overhead signifying their state of mind.
June 5, 2023/Women's Health
Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Women (and Reasons Why It Might Be Low)

Symptoms are subtle, but could include a reduced libido and mood swings

Man holding head looking worried or depressed.
October 5, 2022/Men's Health
Can Low Testosterone Cause Anxiety and Depression?

Low testosterone levels can mimic symptoms of depression and cause anxiety over time

Elderly man talking with doctor at his appointment.
August 25, 2022/Men's Health
Low Testosterone Treatments: What You Need To Know

Over-the-counter supplements aren’t the answer

Physician's hand holding a blue pill in the palm of his hand, offering it to a patient.
November 7, 2023/Men's Health
Debunking 5 Myths About Viagra

Don’t believe everything you’ve heard about ‘the little blue pill’

male getting an annual check up
September 17, 2023/Men's Health
Most Common Health Issues for Men

It’s important to watch for and guard against conditions like heart disease and cancer

doctor standing in front of a calendar holding clipboard
September 12, 2023/Men's Health
Physical Exams for Men: What To Expect

Screenings and tests done during a wellness check can uncover hidden health issues

Man and woman embracing
August 31, 2023/Men's Health
16 Common Questions About Erectile Dysfunction Answered

If you’re having trouble getting or maintaining an erection, you’re not alone — and there’s help 

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey