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Sunday 18 March 2018

Mid-life crisis? Just blame the hormones

As medics find male menopause is real, Dave Robbins finally has a good excuse for a hair transplant and flash car

You embark on a serious diet, determined to squeeze into those trousers everyone admired on that holiday to Capri in 1989. You think about Charles Saatchi, who lost several stone on a diet of nine boiled eggs a day. You buy some air-freshener to deal with the consequences.

These are the classic signs of the male mid-life crisis, alongside buying a carbon-fibre racing bike, a lycra bodysuit and entering every triathlon in the EU.

Until recently, they have been regarded as rather sad symptoms of male ego depletion, born of a desire to capture a lost youth, to show you can still be attractive to women, that you still have what it takes.

Now, however, these symptoms have been shown to be part of a bona-fide medical condition. The male menopause, so long derided as a purely psychological condition, is real.

The UK Centre for Men's Health has shown that the "andropause" is due to depleting levels of the male hormone testosterone, and can be treated with hormone replacement therapy.

The Centre carried out a study of 2,000 men treated with testosterone injections and found that the majority benefitted from the treatment. The results are published in the current edition of the Journal of Ageing.

Their research suggests that one in five men suffer from decreasing levels of testosterone, caused by stress, age, obesity or genetic factors.

One of the physical causes of the male menopause may have been identified, but the social signs are still being investigated. One recent study identified 40 signs that you're going through a mid-life crisis.

Research funded by UK hair restoration experts Crown Clinic found that the male version typically starts at 43-years-old and can last as long as 10 years.

Crisis behavior includes looking up old girlfriends on Facebook, taking a course of vitamin pills and obsessively reading obituaries in the newspaper.

Going to festivals such as Body & Soul or Glastonbury to show you're still "with it", opening a Twitter account to convince your bosses that you "get" digital, and flirting embarrassingly with people 20 years younger than you are also typical behaviours.

The classic mid-life crisis also prompts a negative outlook on life, with worries about retirement income, resentment at the success of friends and concerns about job security common.

Men also look up their medical symptoms on the internet, compare their appearance to others of their age, and think about plastic surgery or a hair transplant.

There is a wistfulness about this time of life too: men spend time looking at old photographs, go back to the places you went on holiday as a child and attend reunion tours of bands from the 1970s or 1980s.

A full-blown mid-life crisis can have other symptoms: suddenly you stop thinking of ageing lotharios such as Silvio Berlusconi and Mick Jagger as sleazebags and begin to regard them as role models.

You undertake a punishing exercise regime with ninja-like determination. A mid-life crisis is a great motivator: Eddie Izzard ran 43 marathons in 51 days when he was in "peak crisis" aged 47.

When middle-aged women look at themselves in the mirror, they tend to notice wrinkles. Men fixate on the vast, prairie-like expanse of baldness up top. So it's off to the hair clinic with a photo of Elton John or Shane Warne in your pocket.

And then, with your new head of hair, and poured into your old trousers, you buy a new car. After all, you've paid the school fees and spent the last quarter of a century paying other people's bills. Now it's payback time.

Something red, perhaps, with a soft top, something curvy, powerful and decidedly phallic. Move over, Jeremy Clarkson.

Now you have to have something cool, young and trendy blaring on the stereo. Normally, you listen to Lyric FM. Now, you've got Hozier on full blast and spend hours trying to decipher how Spotify works.

A common theme in the mid-life crisis research tries to decode the "crisis" part. Often, men in their 50s undergo a sort of existential self-examination. The Crown Clinic study identified an urge to change lifestyle.

That's why so many bankers and accountants sell up and start making goat's cheese in west Cork, and why they have Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as their home screen on their phone.

It's also why so many mid-lifers question the materialism of modern life and start to donate to charities, according to the Crown Clinic study.

But the best thing about the male mid-life crisis is that it passes - eventually. And you have a new car and new hair at the end. What's not to like?

Irish Independent

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