Men with unhealthy narcissism have much higher levels of cortisol, leading to potential heart and immune system complications, according to a recent study published online by PLoS ONE. Entitlement and exploitativeness, the strongest stress-inducing components of the personality trait, may cause ongoing activation of the stress system that releases the hormone cortisol in the body.
Investigators assessed narcissism using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and collected baseline saliva cortisol samples of 79 women and 27 men with an average age of 20.1 years. Participants also answered questionnaires regarding relationship status, emotional support, and mood.
In the analysis of average cortisol levels in patients with unhealthy narcissism, the effect of narcissism on cortisol levels in women was 2.5 times lower than in men. “Males tend to score higher on narcissism, and males also have larger increases in cortisol concentrations after stressors,” noted the authors, led by David A. Reinhard from the University of Virginia. There was no relationship found between cortisol levels and healthy narcissism in men, however.
Narcissistic males who present as entitled and exploitative may experience damaging psychological consequences and health problems in the long term. The next step in research is to examine why this feature is found selectively in men. Future investigations about the body’s response to the involved substances are also needed to solidify preliminary findings.