Testosterone and Socioeconomic Differences in Mortality

James Howard jmhoward at sprynet.com
Wed Jun 3 14:30:59 EST 1998

Testosterone and Socioeconomic Differences in Mortality

James Howard
Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.A.

AP, Chicago, June 3,  “Contrary to popular belief, getting America’s poor to
exercise and cut back on smoking, drinking and overeating won’t do much to
bring down their higher death rate, a study says.  Poor people have a death
rate as much as three times higher than that of other groups.  But smoking,
drinking, overeating and lack of exercise account, at most, for 13 percent
of the gap, researchers concluded in a study in Wednesday’s Journal of the
American Medical Association.”  (JAMA. 1998; 279: 1703-1708)

This sounds very similar to some earlier work comparing tuberculosis and
mortality in whites and blacks.  That is, the “unexpected finding that under
the same social conditions, blacks are apparently infected more readily by
Mycobacterium tuberculosis than whites (New England Journal of Medicine
1990; 322: 422) and the 31% unexplained differences in excess mortality in
blacks compared to whites reported by the Centers for Disease Control in the
Journal of the American Medical Association 1990; 263: 845.  Both of these
studies made adjustments to make the comparisons as similar as possible,
i.e., socioeconomic levels in the first and risk factors, including smoking
and drinking, among others, in the second study.

My work suggests that the hormone, DHEA, is necessary for proper growth and
development, and, once the adult level is attained, for the proper
maintenance of all tissues.  A subordinate idea is that the hormone,
testosterone, increases the use of DHEA for testosterone-target-tissues.
This is why men are bigger and stronger than women.  A by-product of this is
that testosterone decreases the length of the lifetime supply of DHEA.
Testosterone causes DHEA to be used more rapidly; testosterone makes the
life span shorter. It is known that black males produce significantly more
testosterone than white males (Journal of the National Cancer Institute
1986; 76: 45).  It is also known that testosterone is higher in black women
compared to white women (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
1996; 81: 1108).  In 1996, the average life expectany of whites and blacks
follows this exactly.  That is, white women live longest, black women next,
then white men, followed by black men.  In the AP article, access to medical
care is listed as one of the major reasons for the JAMA findings.  It has
long been suggested that white men have access to the best medical care in
this country.  However, in average life expectancy, white men are third.  I
suggest the real cause of the JAMA findings is due to the effects of

I have been able to find comparisons of testosterone levels in blacks
compared to whites.  However, I have not been able to find this comparison
between “poor” and “wealthy.”  However, it is known that crime and poor
performance in school is a problem for poor people, regardless of race.
Testosterone  levels are directly correlated with severity of crimes. “Free
testosterone was measured in the saliva of 89 male prison inmates. Inmates
with higher testosterone concentrations had more often been convicted of
violent crimes. The relationship was most striking at the extremes of the
testosterone distribution, where 9 out of 11 inmates with the lowest
testosterone concentrations had committed nonviolent crimes, and 10 out of
11 inmates with the highest testosterone concentrations had committed
violent crimes. Among the inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes, those
higher in testosterone received longer times to serve before parole and
longer punishments for disciplinary infractions in prison. In the housing
unit where peer ratings were most reliable, inmates rated as tougher by
their peers were higher in testosterone.” (Psychosom Med 1987; 49: 174).
Also, while “learning disabilities” cannot be accurately labeled as the main
reason for poor school performance, testosterone is directly connected to
learning disabilities.  “Previous studies have indicated that the sex
steroids have organizational effects upon neural tissue and that abnormal
secretion during development may lead to functional anomalies. In this
study, we explore the possibility of prepubertal steroid hormone involvement
in the etiology of learning disabilities. Salivary testosterone levels in
264 children without learning disabilities (133 males, 131 females) were
measured and compared to that in 32 children with learning disabilities (25
males, 7 females). The presence of learning disabilities was significantly
associated with higher salivary testosterone. Data from equivalent samples
of learning-disabled and control subjects also were compared separately
because of disparities in sample size and variable distribution in the total
group analysis. A 32-member sample of nonlearning-disabled children was
created by randomly selecting individuals who exactly matched the age, race,
and sex characteristics of the learning-disabled group. The matched analysis
further substantiated the association between testosterone secretion and
learning disabilities. Thus, it is possible that some learning disabilities
may be associated in part with abnormal testosterone levels.” (Physiol Behav
1993; 53: 583).  Since it is known that actual administration of
testosterone to hypogonadal [low testosterone] boys increases aggressive
impulses, as well as physical aggression to peers and adults (J Clin
Endocrinol Metab 1997; 82: 2433), it may well be that increased testosterone
interfers with learning in school.  My point is that increased aggression
and problems in school may be increased by testosterone.  People who cannot
succeed in school cannot succeed in a technological society.  They will
probably be poor.

The difference in mortality rates between “poor” and “wealthy” may be partly
due to “the harsh and adverse environment in which poorer people live.”
However, I suggest that this harsh environment is a secondary result of
increased testosterone.  I think the main cause of differences in life
style, life result, and mortality and morbidity between poor and wealthy is
due to differences in testosterone levels.

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