Higher testosterone levels may help unemployed men find work and employed men keep it, according to a new study published in Economics and Human Biology. The large, longitudinal study confirmed previous studies linking testosterone with success in the workplace, though the exact reason why continues to elude scientists.
Testosterone, the male sex hormone responsible for the development of typical male features and stimulating muscle growth, has been widely linked to various social and economic factors, including being higher in the social hierarchy of a group and having greater success in the workplace. It is also linked to a number of cognitive and personality traits, such as aggression, risk-taking, motivation, and even numerical ability.
But do your testosterone levels affect how you fare on the job market? A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Germany, sought to find out.
Taking a sample of over 2,000 employed and over 110 unemployed British men, the researchers examined their serum testosterone as well as their employment status over a period of two years between 2011 and 2013 to identify any links.
How the participants navigated the job market was recorded, including whether unemployed men found work and whether employed men stayed in work.
The results showed that in both initially unemployed and initially employed groups of men, higher levels of testosterone were linked to a reduced risk of unemployment. The effect was more substantial in the initially unemployed group, indicating testosterone may boost some men’s ability to find work.
The researchers admit that they do not know the exact reason why testosterone might be linked, but there are a number of theories. Hormones have been shown to play a role in income levels in twin studies, as well as a number of personality traits typically linked with greater success. In particular, testosterone has been linked with pro-social behavior, which may allow those with higher serum testosterone to build larger networks, a skill vital in the current labor market. Similarly, testosterone may increase competitive behaviors and assertiveness, which may bode well for applicants in an interview.
As a correlational study, results should be interpreted with caution. The authors admit that testosterone levels fluctuate regularly, and it is unclear whether these results would stand up over a longer period of time or whether general fluctuations in the short- and medium-term are to blame. Alongside this, the initially employed sample size is significantly larger than the other group, so drawing direct conclusions from the unemployed group may be difficult.