A fascinating but not entirely surprising result from a study about narcissism suggests that men incur a higher cost health-wise for trying to appear manly, or otherwise in conformity with stereotypical gender roles.
For the new study, Konrath and colleagues David Reinhard of the University of Virginia, and William Lopez and Heather Cameron of the University of Michigan examined the role of narcissism and sex on cortisol levels in a sample of 106 undergraduate students. Cortisol, which can be measured through saliva samples, is a widely used marker of physiological stress.
The researchers measured cortisol levels at two points in time in order to assess baseline levels of the hormone, which signals the level of activation of the body’s key stress response system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Participants were not asked to complete any tasks that would elevate their stress. Elevated levels of cortisol in a relatively stress-free situation would indicate chronic HPA activation, which has significant health implications, increasing the risk of cardiovascular problems.