Many new fathers naturally experience a decline in their testosterone—and, if you’re expecting this December, perhaps your Low-T will come just in time to get you into the holiday spirit. “Men with higher testosterone can be more prone to anger and lower empathy,” Lee Gettler, an anthropology professor at the University of Notre Dame, told Fatherly. “So perhaps having lower testosterone opens the possibility to sentimental perspectives and emotions when it comes to family time around the holidays.” Which means new dads may be able to stomach Love Actually (and their in-laws) better than the rest of us.
Alastair Kennett, director of the testosterone replacement clinic OptiMale, agrees. “These hormone changes can certainly explain the appreciation and enjoyment experienced by men with families,” he told Fatherly
While the subject of low testosterone relative to the holiday season has never been studied directly, the theory does makes sense, given extant research. Studies suggest that, the more time new dads spend more with their babies, the more their testosterone dips, and that men who spend time with their friends generally have lower testosterone. Isn’t playing with your kids and enjoying eggnog with the guys what Christmas is all about? “Committed, invested dads with lower testosterone are probably already in tune with connecting to their immediate families and having meaningful moments with them,” Gettler says.
Still, there’s evidence that low testosterone can lead to depression and moodiness, which is a bummer year round. Likewise, research suggests that stress hormones like cortisol can further suppress testosterone levels, so holiday stress could cause testosterone levels to fall even lower. “If testosterone levels become too low this can have a negative effect on mood and even make men aggressive or grumpy,” Kennett warns.
Ditto with testosterone levels that are too high. Men with high testosterone tend to behave less generously and empathetically, while being more prone to anger and “those tendencies probably don’t lend themselves to enthusiastic and patient participation in some types of holiday gatherings,” Gettler says.
Of course, there are limitations to what we know about testosterone as it relates to fathers. As scientists like Gettler start to apply past findings to other psychosocial relationships, they’re finding that men who have more support from their families and friends have lower testosterone—but it remains unclear whether lower testosterone levels are responsible for facilitating this, or if such bonds quell a man’s T over time. Besides, not all new fathers experience low-T, and even those who do don’t always see a spike in holiday spirit.
But if you get teary-eyed watching your newborn encounter snow for the first time, you can conveniently blame it on your plummeting testosterone. Far be it from us to call you out on it.