Study: Testosterone Kills

A new study of some very old data shows that the male sex hormone may reduce guys' lifespans.

If you’re in a betting pool on who’ll outlive everyone else in the Grand Guignol that is Game of Thrones (Season 3 debuts in March! I can’t wait!), you might want to rethink your wager in light of a new study by Korean scientists. By painstakingly combing through royal records, they were able to show that palace eunuchs—males castrated at an early age and working as servants—lived significantly longer than guys whose baggage was intact. How much longer? Nearly 20 years. “The average lifespan of eunuchs was 70.0 plus or minus 1.76 years, which was 14.4 to 19.1 years longer than the lifespan of noncastrated men of similar socioeconomic status,” according to lead researcher Kyung-jin Min of Inha University.

Why? Testosterone kills. No, really.

Previous animal studies have shown that fertility is inversely correlated with lifespan; the more offspring one has, the less long one lives. And a study last year by Jill Crandall of New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that humans who live to be 100 have fewer kids than those of us who die before then. But the eunuch news provides “compelling evidence that male sex hormone reduces male lifespan,” according to Min.

The results could explain why, worldwide, women live longer than men. Scientists theorize that testosterone may weaken the heart muscle or immune system, but more research is needed. And then, of course, there’s the remedy that’s worse than the ailment: “We may need to consider the side effects” of castration, Min said.

So while my heart may be pulling for Tyrion and Jon Snow, I’m moving my pool money to GOT’s Lord Varys, spymaster for the Iron Throne. And in the name of the Gods, nobody go anywhere near Joffrey with a knife.