The notion that the older man must inevitably fall prey to a condition analogous to the female menopause has been bandied about for decades. The terms "male climacteric" and "male menopause" have found favor as the man's counterpart to a woman's menopause. Male climacteric has been vigorously championed, as if some cosmic-fairness doctrine demanded that both men and women experience equalopportunity afflictions of aging. Others have been just as ardent in insisting that there is no evidence for the existence of either a male climacteric or a male menopause. What is the truth?
Menopause and climacteric are words of Greco-Roman origin. The words mens (Greek) or mensis (Latin), meaning "month," serve as the root used to designate different stages in a woman's first menstrual period (menarche). The same root mens serves to characterize either a continuation (menstruation) or cessation (menopause) of monthly cycles of vaginal bleeding.
The word "climacteric" has an equally intriguing linguistic history, dating back to the sixth-century Greek philosopher Pythagoras. He considered the first climacteric, or critical life stage, of a man's life to be at age seven; with additional climacterics or pivotal events occurring at ages twenty-one, forty-nine, fifty-six, and eighty-one.
Today, "climacteric" is used to designate physical changes at different ages in either sex, or in the female as a synonym for menopause. Physicians groping for a succinct phrase to describe the impact of aging on older men initially found the term "male menopause" unwieldy and biologically silly. Therefore, they resurrected the gender-neutral term "climacteric."
Dr. August Werner, a St. Louis internist, introduced the term "male climacteric" in a medical paper published in 1939 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He thought it was "reasonable to believe that many