The singer Robbie Williams has claimed in a recent interview with The Times that he is suffering from the ‘manopause’. This is the male equivalent of the menopause; a time in midlife when hormone levels drop and some women experience unpleasant symptoms such as mood swings, hot flushes, changes in sleep patterns and weight gain.

The male menopause, sometimes called the andropause or ‘manopause’ is thought to be the result of a dip in testosterone levels that occurs around the late 40s or early 50s. Common symptoms include loss of muscle mass, lethargy, irritability, poor concentration, insomnia, erectile dysfunction (ED), and fat redistribution.

Robbie Williams, 49, who was once a member of the boy band Take That, said he was badly affected, telling the interviewer: “The hair is thinning, the testosterone has left the building, the serotonin is not really here and the dopamine said goodbye a long time ago. I’ve used up all of the natural good stuff. I’ve got the manopause.”

However, there is some controversy as to whether the manopause is a genuine medical condition, or just a result of lifestyle factors and the natural process of getting older. The NHS website explains that although male testosterone levels do fall, most men will experience this at a steady rate of 1% or 2% per year from the 30s onwards.

The manopause is therefore nothing like the much steeper drop in oestrogen levels that women experience during the menopause. Channa Jayasena, a consultant in reproductive endocrinology, explained to The Times: “This is a mistaken attempt to compare what’s going on in men with what’s going on in women.”

The NHS advises that men who are experiencing symptoms of the manopause to look at lifestyle factors and mental health in the first instance. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by smoking, drinking to excess, being overweight or obese, or by psychological or emotional issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety. 

The symptoms can also be caused by more serious underlying health issues such as heart disease, or uncontrolled type 2 diabetes.  In rare cases, low testosterone can be caused by a condition called late-onset hypergonadism, which affects about two to six percent of men in the UK. It can be treated with testosterone replacement therapy in the form of jabs or gel.

The NHS warns against men simply asking for a testosterone prescription without addressing issues such as diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and smoking habits first of all. This is because boosting testosterone levels unnecessarily can increase the risk of blood clots, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. 

Erectile dysfunction is a common problem, especially for middle-aged men. Once any underlying serious health issues have been ruled out, it can be treated with oral medication or a topical gel called Eroxon Stimgel.