Sex, social status and physiological stress in primates: The importance of social and glucocorticoid dynamics

Sonia A. Cavigelli, Michael J. Caruso

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Social status has been associated with health consequences, although the mechanisms by which status affects health are relatively unknown. At the physiological level, many studies have investigated the potential relationship between social behaviour/rank and physiological stress, with a particular focus on glucocorticoid (GC) production. GCs are of interest because of their experimentally established influence on health-related processes such asmetabolismand immune function. Studies in a variety of species, in both naturalistic and laboratory settings, have led to complex outcomes. This paper reviews findings from primates and rodents and proposes a psychologically and physiologically relevant framework in which to study the relationship between social status and GC function. We (i) compare status-specific GC production between male and female primates, (ii) review the functional significance of different temporal patterns of GC production, (iii) propose ways to assess these temporal dynamics, and (iv) present novel hypotheses about the relationship between social status and GC temporal dynamics, and potential fitness and health implications. To understand whether GC production mediates social status-related fitness disparities, we must consider social contest conditions and the temporal dynamics of GC production. This framework will provide greater insights into the relationship between social status, physiological stress and health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1669
StatePublished - May 26 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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