Narcissism, or an exaggerated self of one's own importance, may have long-term implications for a man's health, according to data collected by psychologists at he University ofMichigan in Ann Arbor.
The same cannot be said about women.
The Ann Arbor team profiled 106 students at two American universities to assess narcissistic tendencies using the 40-item Narcissistic Personality Inventory. This inventory measures five axes of narcissism: exploitativeness, entitlement, leadership/authority, superiority, and self-absorption.
The first two component are considered "unhealthy" psychological traits, while the last three are "healthy". The volunteers also submitted saliva samples for cortisol testing. Cortisol is a hormone often used to gauge the "fight or flight" stress response in individuals.
Volunteers were explicitly not asked to perform any actions that might raise their stress and cortisol levels, in order to give a more consistent reading of static or chronic stress in each person. The team found that males who ranked higher on the "unhealthy" component of the narcissism inventory also tended to have higher static cortisol levels. There was no such correspondence among females and no correspondence for either gender between stress levels and "healthy" narcissism.
Since heightened cortisol levels usually equate to higher risks for hypertension orcardiovascular disease, it's important to understand the causation at play in this link. One hypothesis is that narcissistic males, while projecting a self-absorbed exterior, are actually quite insecure, and their coping strategies tend to be aggressive, which can lead to increased sensitivity of the cardiac system to stress. It might also have to do with overlapping male stereotypes, which can cause a man who is very self-absorbed and also believes men should be arrogant and dominant to feel more stressed than one with a more flexible view of masculinity.