MEN'S HEALTH ∙ 3 minute read

Manopause: is a ‘midlife crisis’ actually a sign of male menopause?

By Kirsty Mason | Medically reviewed by Dr Luke Pratsides

Bald. Tired. Divorced. Depressed. You feel like life’s slipping through your fingers and you can’t catch a break. You suppress the despair, and the misery. You tell everyone, I’m fine.

But people see through it. You’re chasing after new hobbies, new love interests, a new lease of life. Something feels different, but you can’t pinpoint why. 

And what does everyone say?

He’s going through a midlife crisis.

It might have been triggered by the empty nest, the death of a parent, or a slow-burning realisation that the dreams and ambitions of your youth are becoming missed opportunities and intangible goals. Is it a midlife crisis? Or is it something else?

Let’s look at the facts. 

The reason is up for debate but divorces skyrocket when people reach middle age. In 2018, the UK reported the average age for men to divorce was 46.9 years old. For women, it was 44.5 years old. 

‘Unreasonable behaviour’ has been the most common reason for wives to file for divorce since the 1970s, whereas this trend has only been seen in husbands since 2006. Same-sex couples also cited ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as the most common grounds for divorce.

In 2016, the ONS conducted a survey on life satisfaction and found people aged 40-59 reported lower levels of happiness and higher levels of anxiety when compared to other age groups. This is a common trend, with happiness over life span often referred to as a ‘U’ shape.

The evidence is clear. Life often takes a turn when you reach a certain age. And through all the uncertainty and confusion, outsiders will be poking fun at you and labelling you a victim of the ‘midlife crisis’. It’s an entirely social concept which points the finger at external life factors. But what if there was a biological shift that could really explain what’s going on?

What are the signs of male menopause?

Just like with a midlife crisis, male menopause is a controversial topic that is still up for debate. It’s often termed ‘andropause’ or colloquially, ‘manopause’. Basically, it’s a male version of menopause.

So, what’s the science behind it?

As you age, your hormone levels change. When a man reaches 40, he experiences a drop in testosterone, at an average rate of 1-2% per year. Low levels of testosterone are known to be linked to several health concerns, which may contribute to our understanding of what triggers ‘male menopause’. Unlike with female menopause, not every man will experience it, and the change is not as sudden. Although men’s fertility declines with age, a 90-year-old father is not unheard of, whereas it would be impossible for a woman to give birth in her 90s.

Here are some of the symptoms which are linked to our current understanding of male menopause:

  1. Loss of sex drive/ libido
  2. Erectile dysfunction
  3. Low energy
  4. Depression/ low mood
  5. Mood swings/ irritability
  6. Tiredness/ fatigue

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, get your testosterone levels measured with an at-home blood test.

A midlife crisis, male menopause, andropause, manopause or whatever you want to call it, if you’re experiencing big changes in your life, get your symptoms checked and seek support. Feeling like you’re going through a midlife crisis isn’t a sure-fire way of determining if you’re experiencing male menopause, so get your testosterone levels checked if you have concerns.

The numan take

Whether it’s social or biological, when you reach your 40s or 50s, change is to be expected. You might think a midlife crisis is characterised by a middle-aged man taking to the roads with a new car and an equally new woman, but a drop in testosterone may explain some of the social and physical changes which men go through at a certain age.

Although ‘male menopause’ is a concept that is not as widely accepted or easy to define, the biological changes which men experience as they age lead to similar symptoms to that of female menopause.

Experiencing erectile dysfunction? Low energy? Depression? Tiredness? Get your testosterone levels measured, and seek help and support if you’re struggling.

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