Pity the Boss Man: Researchers find that being at the top may come at a high cost

Ecologists at Princeton University recently discovered top-ranking male baboons exhibit higher levels of stress hormones than second-ranking males, suggesting that being at the top of a social hierarchy may be more costly than previously thought.

By studying baboon groups in Kenya, the researchers, for the first time, identified higher levels of stress hormones, or glucocoricoids, in alpha males as compared to beta males.


An adult male peacefully resting on a rock early in the morning.

"These results are very interesting because they provide insights into complex societies and have potential applications to human behavior and societal structures," says Kaye Reed, program director for physical anthropology at the National Science Foundation which funded the study.

The study's results are in the July 15 issue of the journal Science.

For more information on levels of stress hormones, testosterone in male baboons and the costs of high social rank, see Princeton's press release.

Source: National Science Foundation