Emotions and Hormones
Estrogen is typically called the “female” hormone. Testosterone is called the “male” hormone [but] this isn’t entirely accurate as both are present in everyone’s bodies. But higher amounts of testosterone tend to be present in biologically male bodies [while] higher amounts of estrogen tend to be present in biologically female bodies.
I’m sure we’ve all heard that as men age their testosterone level decreases while their ‘female’ hormone, estrogen, increases, but is it true? Yes. “Testosterone naturally decreases as men age, while [their] estrogen increases.” https://www.healthline.com/health/estrogen-inmen#:~:text=Testosterone%20naturally%20decreases%20as%20men,and%20certain%20forms%20of%20cancer.
“Beginning around the age of 35–40 years, … testosterone … levels decrease by approximately 1%–3% per year. Approximately 20% of men older than 60 years and 50% of men older than 80 years have … testosterone concentrations below the normal range for young men.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3636678/
“It's not "male menopause," exactly — for one thing, it doesn't happen to all men — but about 20 percent of men over age 60 and 30-50 percent of men over age 80 will experience andropause, a significant decline in testosterone production. The symptoms might include the following:
· Decrease in muscle mass and overall strength
· Decrease in bone density and a corresponding increased risk of osteoporosis
· Low libido and erectile dysfunction
· Decreased energy and depression
· Cognitive impairment “ https://www.rush.edu/news/hormones-you-age
“Low testosterones equate to lower muscle mass in men [which] translates to decreased muscle strength, which in turn leads to functional limitations, such as balance problems, a higher fall risk, injuries, chronic conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea, depression, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, renal or liver disease, decreased quality of life, and higher risk of morbidities [an attitude, quality, or state of mind marked by excessive gloom, or ill health, or undesirable side effect following surgery. Merriam-Webster, Nov 11, 2022] and mortalities with aging.”
Changes in hormones levels are also true for women as they age. “Testosterone and Estrone [Estrone is a steroid, a weak estrogen] increase from the age of 70 years [yet have been decreasing for the years prior to age 70.] Testosterone and Estrone increase with age, despite a steady decline in DHEA [DHEA helps produce other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.] Natural DHEA levels peak in early adulthood and then slowly fall as you age.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6830527/ PMCID: PMC6830527 “Testosterone and Estrone Increase From the Age of 70 Years: Findings From the Sex Hormones in Older Women Study,” Dec 2019
“Estrogen, Testosterone, growth hormone, and melatonin are the hormones in the body that most commonly decrease function with age.” https://www.rejuvimemedical.com/blog/how-do-hormones-change-as-i-age/
“Testosterone is a powerful hormone in both men and women. It has the ability to control sex drive, regulate sperm production, promote muscle mass, and increase energy. It can even influence human behavior, such as aggression and competitiveness.
As men grow older, their testosterone levels gradually decrease. Because it is such a powerful hormone, changes in testosterone levels can have a significant impact on male health. Similarly, a woman’s estrogen level drops after she enters menopause. This may make her levels of male hormones, also known as androgens, somewhat higher.” https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/testosterone-levels-by-age#:~:text=Normal%20testosterone%20levels,-The%20%E2%80%9Cnormal%E2%80%9D%20or&text=According%20to%20recent%20guidelines%20from,be%20diagnosed%20with%20low%20testosterone.
“Counterintuitively, testosterone … circulates in higher concentrations than estrogens in women of all ages….” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6830527/ PMCID: PMC6830527 “Testosterone and Estrone Increase From the Age of 70 Years: Findings From the Sex Hormones in Older Women Study,” Dec 2019
“Because of the significant role testosterone plays in a men’s health and appearance, it’s only logical that as testosterone levels change over time, health and appearance will change as well
“According to recent guidelines from the American Urological Association (AUA), the “normal” or healthy level of testosterone…varies widely, depending on thyroid function, protein status, and other factors. A man with a testosterone level below 300 ng/dL should be diagnosed with low testosterone.”
“…women also need testosterone for healthy body functioning. For women ages 19 and up, normal testosterone levels range from 8 to 60 ng/dL, according to Mayo Clinic Laboratories. [For men and women], testosterone levels reach their peak around age 18 or 19 before declining throughout the remainder of adulthood.”
“In addition to causing physical changes, having low levels of testosterone can affect you on an emotional level. The condition can lead to feelings of sadness or depression. Some people have trouble with memory and concentration and experience lowered motivation and self-confidence.” https://www.healthline.com/health/side-effects-of-low-testosterone#takeaway
“Unfortunately, dubious research on testosterone and cognitive empathy [“having more complete and accurate knowledge about the contents of another person's mind, including how the person feels] has been used to support the seemingly misguided "extreme male brain" theory of autism spectrum disorders. The "extreme male brain" hypothesis posits that autism is an exaggeration of "male" tendencies toward a cognitive style that is more systematic and less empathetic.”
“Our results unequivocally show that there is not a linear causal relation between testosterone exposure and cognitive empathy."
Personal note: As I age, I’ve become more peaceful, satisfied, and incredibly more emotional―like in quivering lip and crying without tears emotional. As a first-grader, I remember my brother and I would go to the Saturday movies to watch Hopalong Cassidy get the bad guys, cringe when Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein, and the always thrilling Superman serials. The other kids in the theater screamed and laughed uproariously at the slapstick while I sat silently wondering why they were laughing.
Years later, I saw horrible things without emotion, [I would occasionally get nauseous]. What I saw didn’t affect me emotionally, for which I am now grateful. I was able to do my job. That has all changed in the last couple of years. Hallmark movies now destroy me. Can’t talk, throat pinches close, and my eyes almost become moist. I laugh loudly watching Home Alone, Clark Griswold’s five National Lampoon's Vacation films, and, of course Caddyshack. I have become unabashedly emotional and loving it. I’ve discovered compassion, empathy, and the freedom to laugh and cry. (I could do with less empathy.) So, what’s happening?
“Aging has been related to cognitive and socioemotional decline in several studies … although most functions deteriorate continuously with age, some show improvement.
“Social-emotional skills are essential for connecting with others! They help us manage our emotions, build healthy relationships, and feel empathy. Examples of social-emotional skills … are: Recognizing if someone is sad, and asking if they're ok. Understanding your thoughts and feelings, and being able to relate to others.” https://pathways.org/topics-of-development/social-emotional/
“With age, an increase in positive feelings such as, happiness, calmness, relaxedness, and enthusiasm, and simultaneously a significant decrease in negative feelings such as, boredom, fatigue, and a decreasing trend for anger have been reported. This age-related positivity effect in emotional experience favoring positive over negative stimuli has been well-documented in the past 15 years and has important health implications, since survival rates were shown to be related to positive affectivity in older individuals.
“In line with these findings [that older people show an increase in positive feelings], [studies] reported a continuous decrease in the prevalence of depression with increasing age while a[n] … age-related downward trend in worry frequency in individuals with and without general anxiety disorders was demonstrated.
Wise reasoning is another psychological construct related to this positivity effect and it seems to increase with more life experiences. Furthermore, older individuals show preferences for positive low-arousal affect (calm, peaceful, relaxed) over positive high-arousal affect (excited, proud) matching with a state of wise reasoning.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5627388/
“Women cry more often than men. The reason behind this is probably due to hormonal levels. Testosterone, more common in men, would inhibit crying, while prolactin, more common in women, could help promote crying. https://www.sweye.com/blog/optical-care/the-science-behind-why-we-cry/#:~:text=Women%20cry%20more%20often%20than,women%2C%20could%20help%20promote%20crying. April 26, 2019
What is prolactin? “Prolactin is a hormone made by the pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain. Prolactin, also known as lactotropin, is a protein best known for its role in enabling mammals to produce milk. It is influential in over 300 separate processes in various vertebrates, including humans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prolactin
“Is crying good for your health? The answer appears to be yes. Medical benefits of crying have been known as far back as the Classical era. Thinkers and physicians of ancient Greece and Rome posited that tears work like a purgative, draining off and purifying us. Today’s psychological thought largely concurs, emphasizing the role of crying as a mechanism that allows us to release stress and emotional pain.
Scientists divide the liquid product of crying into three distinct categories: reflex tears, continuous tears, and emotional tears. The first two categories perform the important function of removing debris such as smoke and dust from our eyes, and lubricating our eyes to help protect them from infection. Their content is 98% water.
It’s the third category, emotional tears (which flush stress hormones and other toxins out of our system), that potentially offers the most health benefits. Researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain.”
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-crying-good-for-you-2021030122020 by Leo Newhouse March 1 2021
“A common symptom of midlife in men is to suddenly become more emotional. Men who have felt very little emotion for years find themselves moved to tears at movies, or find a lump in their throat when thinking about their family.” https://www.beefmagazine.com/americancowman/ranching-over-50/0211-men-aging-feelings#:~:text=Feb%2011%2C%202008-,A%20common%20symptom%20of%20midlife%20in%20men%20is%20to%20suddenly,when%20thinking%20about%20their%20family .
“Emotions get better with age. Bodies lose their vigor with the passing of the years, but emotional well-being tends to improve, studies find. Among the observations: Though older people may have fewer social contacts, those they retain bring more satisfaction and meaning.” May 5, 2021 https://knowablemagazine.org/article/mind/2021/emotions-get-better-age
“Some movies pull on the feelings of individuals, causing them to shed tears while watching. A combination of sad features can make even guys cry. For example, a sentimental background tune, a nostalgic storyline, and a soul-stirring lineup of events can make a movie powerful enough to make its viewers cry.
If a person can emotionally connect with the actors in a film, they’re bound to experience the same magnitude of feelings communicated through the movie. Therefore, a guy that cries while watching a movie isn’t more emotional than the next. It merely means he was able to connect with the actors and the storyline portrayed emotionally.”
“Do men cry more as they age? My observation is that men cry more as they age, and I think it is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, I've not been able to find much research about it, but everything I've read online about the issue of crying confirms that women cry five times more often than men.
“Most researchers point to the same causes, such as hormonal differences and cultural upbringing. Tear production is about the same for boys and girls up to the age of eleven, then the boy's tears shut down.
“Ad Vingerhoets, a clinical psychologist at Tilburg University and the author of "Why Only Humans Weep: Unravelling the Mysteries of Tears," is one of the few researchers currently studying emotional tears, those triggered by feelings rather than, say, onions or other irritants. He says that another unique physiological aspect of males is their tear ducts are larger and less likely to spill over.
“But, of course, tears are just one symptom of emotion. First comes the tightening in the throat that makes it difficult to speak, and the awkward breathing that follows, sometimes called sobbing. The crystal tears that spill over the lower eyelid are the pretty part. The screwed-up facial expressions and the inability to speak are another story.
“But back to my observations that, as men age, they cry more. Obviously, it might be due to a reduction in testosterone, which actually inhibits tears. Men receiving treatments for prostate cancer that lower testosterone are known to cry more.
The childhood admonishment to be a big boy and stop crying has hopefully gone by the wayside and is seen as a detriment to healthy adulthood. Maybe men's tear ducts shrink. As men age, I would like to think that they become more comfortable with their feelings and are willing to let them flow. There are many reasons the average lifespan for women is longer than men's, and healthy crying might be one of them.
In other parts of the world, group-crying is a new phenomenon. People gather in sessions where they watch sad movies or look at heartbreaking photographs which induce sadness. Then, people can cry together within a safe environment and let their emotions flow. You might think this would create a sense of depression, but it can trigger a release of oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone associated with social bonding. The result is an amazing elevation of mood, and it works for men and women.
Leonardo da Vinci said it succinctly, "Tears come from the heart and not from the brain." So perhaps the beauty of old age is to live from the heart more often.
https://www.cjonline.com/story/news/2022/03/20/crying-can-good-health-aging-men-able-cry-more-easily/7080628001/ by Connie Mason Michaelis, Special to The Capital-Journal, March 20, 2022, “Tears are not a detriment but a tool for men, especially as they age”