Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/17/22
Most men will probably agree that orgasms are great. They’re beneficial to your mental health, feel amazing and can strengthen your intimate relationships.
Masturbation can provide plenty of benefits, too, even if the pleasure is solo. But are there any downsides to giving yourself a hand?
There are plenty of old wives’ tales out there when it comes to the effects of masturbation, from claims that it can cause hairy palms to a purported link to blindness. As you’d expect, these are superstitions that aren’t supported by any scientific evidence.
But does masturbation decrease testosterone? If you’ve spent any time online, you might have come across videos, blog posts and other media claiming a negative link between masturbation and testosterone.
Are these claims true? For the most part, scientific research hasn’t established any link between masturbation and a reduction in your levels of testosterone (there also doesn’t appear to be any masturbation-associated increase in testosterone levels, either).
Below, we’ve explained these research findings in more detail and covered everything you need to know about the effects of masturbation on your testosterone levels and sexual health.
Before we get into the specifics of masturbation and sexual performance, let’s get this question out of the way.
Does masturbating lower testosterone? Based on the research that’s available right now, there doesn’t appear to be any relationship between masturbating on a regular basis and maintaining lower testosterone levels.
In short, masturbating doesn’t appear to reduce your serum testosterone levels, at least not in a way that’s identifiable with a blood test.
There also doesn’t appear to be much of a link between orgasming in general and testosterone levels, meaning having sex is also unlikely to have any negative impact on your body’s ability to produce androgen hormones.
We’ve discussed this in more detail below, with links to specific studies and research findings. In the meantime, let’s look at why testosterone is so important for your health as a man, as well as the factors that may cause your production of testosterone to decline.
Testosterone levels are important. Low testosterone — which is commonly referred to as “Low-T” or hypogonadism — happens when your body is unable to produce an adequate amount of male sex hormones, or androgens, such as testosterone.
Your body relies on testosterone for numerous important functions. Testosterone helps to create sperm and keep you fertile, promotes a healthy sex drive, allows you to get and maintain erections and produces red blood cells that supply oxygen to your body’s tissue.
Testosterone is also linked to your energy levels and mood, as well as aspects of your physical body composition, such as your muscle mass and fat distribution.
While low testosterone isn’t life-threatening, it can lead to issues that may affect your health and well-being as a man. These include:
Weaker bones and more body fat
Loss of muscle mass and strength
Mood disorders, such as depression
Reduced sperm count and fertility
A reduced level of interest in sexual activity
Cognitive issues, such as difficulty concentrating
Sexual performance issues, such as erectile dysfunction (ED)
Our guide to the symptoms of low testosterone goes into more detail about these issues, as well as how you may notice them affecting you if your testosterone levels are lower than normal.
It’s normal to experience some decline in your production of testosterone as you age, usually as you enter your 30s or forties. It’s normal for total bioavailable testosterone to decrease by up to 50 percent by the time you reach the age of seventy-five.
Other factors can also contribute to reduced natural testosterone production, including reduced thyroid function, injuries that affect your testicles, issues with glands inside your brain that help to control testosterone levels and the use of certain types of medication.
Hypogonadism can be treated with testosterone replacement therapy, or as it’s often referred to, TRT. This form of treatment involves using artificial testosterone to bring your testosterone level back to the normal range.
Testosterone replacement therapy is generally considered safe and effective, although there are some potential side effects and safety risks. These include:
Blood clots and increased cholesterol
Reduced sperm production and fertility issues
An elevated risk of heart failure
Our guide to testosterone replacement therapy discusses how this form of treatment works, as well as its potential side effects.
Back to the big question: Is there a negative link between masturbating and testosterone? Or, to be more specific, does ejaculating — whether from sex or masturbation — have any real effect on your ability to produce testosterone?
First of all, if you’re having so much sex that you’re beginning to feel worried about your body’s ability to keep up hormonally, well, congratulations.
Second, if you’re masturbating so much that you’re concerned about potential side effects, you might want to consider meeting with your healthcare provider to talk, albeit not due to concerns about decreased testosterone.
Currently, there’s no proven link between orgasms — whether they’re accomplished through sex or masturbation — and testosterone levels.
There’s only a tiny amount of testosterone in sperm, and there’s no evidence that you “lose” any of your testosterone when you ejaculate.
Overall, research on the topic has been infrequent at best and is small in quantity, and there are lots more questions than answers.
Here’s what’s known right now:
In 1999, a study published in the International Journal of Andrology revealed conflicting findings about the role of sexual activity in testosterone levels.
The study’s researchers found that men suffering from erectile dysfunction and therefore lacking in sexual activity had lower testosterone levels than their peers.
The lower levels of testosterone were found to be reversible for patients who were successfully treated, but in patients who didn’t respond to treatment, testosterone production appeared to be consistently lower.
This suggests that ejaculating might actually increase testosterone levels, at least for men who are able to treat ED. However, the finding isn’t crystal clear, and it’s possible that other factors could also play a role in both sexual function and testosterone levels.
A different study, which was published in the World Journal of Urology in 2001, found that men who abstained from sexual activity (including masturbation) for three weeks showed increased testosterone concentrations.
However, the same study also found that plasma testosterone levels — the level of testosterone in the men’s blood — were unaltered by masturbation or sexual activity.
More recent research has found that masturbation might have a positive effect on the production of testosterone.
For example, one study published in the journal Basic and Clinical Andrology in 2021 found that masturbation and visual sexual stimulus may help to reduce the severity of natural testosterone drops that occur over the course of the day.
However, like other research on masturbation and testosterone, this study was relatively small in size, with just 11 participants.
Overall, there isn’t any reliable, high-quality scientific evidence to suggest that masturbation has any negative impact on average testosterone levels in men, or that avoiding masturbation leads to any type of testosterone increase.
Likewise, there doesn’t appear to be any reliable link between sexual abstinence and increased testosterone levels.
One thing to keep in mind is that studying masturbation, sexual activity and testosterone levels is quite a complicated process, meaning it can be difficult for even the most thorough experts to get accurate data.
This is because testosterone levels can fluctuate throughout the day by a significant amount. In one study, for example, researchers discovered that men’s average testosterone levels were as much as 25 percent lower at 4 p.m. compared to 8 a.m.
This daytime decrease in testosterone levels can make getting an understanding of testosterone challenging — an issue that’s often compounded by the difficulty of getting participants in a study to avoid masturbation and sex for several weeks (all while remaining honest).
In other words, testosterone levels tend to fluctuate naturally, and this can make confirming any relationship between masturbation and testosterone levels extremely tough.
Right now, we just don’t have any evidence to show that frequent masturbation can cause you to produce less testosterone, or that there’s any testosterone-related response to masturbation or sexual activity at all.
As such, a good approach is to just enjoy your sex life — or occasional masturbation — without worrying too much about the impact it might have on your hormone levels.
If you’ve been worried that masturbation might decrease your testosterone production, you can rest easy knowing it’s not a concern, at least not based on the scientific evidence we have right now.
There’s also no evidence to suggest that masturbation has any negative impact on your sexual drive, sexual arousal process or general level of interest in sex.
Masturbating is healthy and normal, and there’s nothing wrong with masturbating when you feel in the mood for sexual activity but can’t or don’t want to have sex.
If you have worries about your testosterone levels or think you might have erectile dysfunction, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional.
You can access these treatments following an erectile dysfunction consultation with a healthcare provider, who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
You can also learn more about increasing your testosterone production via lifestyle changes and healthy habits in our complete guide to increasing testosterone.