Narcissism May Sabotage Your Health, Study Finds

Young beautiful blonde woman taking a selfie in coffee shop.

It’s no wonder why Carly Simon's 1972 classic, "You're So Vain," was such a hit: It describes that self-absorbed jerk we all know, the type who always seems to end up winning. (Plus, the song features Mick Jagger on backing vocals!). Well, turns out there’s a major downside to narcissism: Research shows that maintaining that image of superiority could take a serious toll on a man’s health.

Cortisol's connection

Researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Virginia gave 106 college students a 40-item questionnaire that checked for five aspects of narcissism, and the researchers also measured the students’ cortisol levels in their saliva. The scientists found that men who scored higher on two of narcissism's more destructive traits -- exploitation and entitlement -- had significantly higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than others who scored lower on the test. And doctors have linked chronically higher cortisol levels to health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.

Understanding the stress response

It’s worth noting that some of the personality features associated with narcissism actually prove useful in everyday life, such as leadership and confidence. But the researchers explained that narcissistic people can also have a fragile sense of identity, which leads them to act out aggressively if their superiority is threatened. The researchers think that the need to always appear better than others is the source of stress that leads to high cortisol. The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Interestingly, while the questionnaires showed that women in the study were just as likely to be narcissistic as men, the women didn’t have the same cortisol stress response. Future research will focus on why this is the case.

Take it easy

Some people are simply driven to succeed in life, thrive on high-stress situations and can’t help their perfectionism. If you’re a guy who falls into that camp, it's okay. Just make sure to manage your stress effectively, and learn to appreciate even your faults. It's good for your health and good for your heart.

More On

Why do men grow hair in weird places as they get older?

video

Why do men grow hair in weird places as they get older?
As men get older, testosterone affects hair growth in new ways.
Does Testosterone Therapy Increase Heart Disease Risk?

article

Does Testosterone Therapy Increase Heart Disease Risk?
Newer research suggests that T therapy may not pose the danger once suspected. Here’s what you need to know.
9 Best Anti-Aging Tips for Men

slideshow

9 Best Anti-Aging Tips for Men
Feeling young and staying strong doesn't have to be difficult. Here are some simple solutions for men. 
What can men do to feel happier, less stressed out and less anxious?

video

What can men do to feel happier, less stressed out and less anxious?
To feel less anxious, it's important for men to have a healthy, balanced lifestyle routine, as well as friendships and interests. In this Ask the Expe...
Is Emotional Eating a Common Issue for Men?

video

Is Emotional Eating a Common Issue for Men?
Emotional eating can be an issue for men, just like it is for women; mindless eating may be a way to cope with feelings of stress and anxiety. Watch u...