Political influence associates with cortisol and health among egalitarian forager-farmers

Christopher R. von Rueden, Benjamin Trumble, Melissa Emery Thompson, Jonathan Stieglitz, Paul L. Hooper, Aaron D. Blackwell, Hillard S. Kaplan, Michael Gurven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background and objectives: Low social status increases risk of disease due, in part, to the psychosocial stress that accompanies feeling subordinate or poor. Previous studies report that chronic stress and chronically elevated cortisol can impair cardiovascular and immune function. We test whether lower status is more benign in small-scale, relatively egalitarian societies, where leaders lack coercive authority and there is minimal material wealth to contest. Methodology: Among Tsimane' forager-horticulturalists of lowland Bolivia, we compare informal political influence among men with urinary cortisol, immune activation (innate and acquired), and morbidity as assessed during routine medical exams. Results: After controlling for potential confounds, we find that politically influential men have lower cortisol, and that this association is partly attributable to access to social support. Cortisol is positively associated with men's income, which may reflect chronic psychosocial stress from market involvement. Greater influence is also associated with lower probability of respiratory infection, which is a frequent source of morbidity among Tsimane'. Among men who lost influence over a 4-year period, cortisol and probability of respiratory infection were higher the greater the decline in influence. Conclusions and implications: Deleterious effects of low status on health are not merely 'diseases of civilization' but may result from how (even subtle) status differences structure human behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereou021
Pages (from-to)122-133
Number of pages12
JournalEvolution, Medicine and Public Health
Volume2014
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

morbidity
cortisol
Hydrocortisone
farmers
social status
human behavior
Health
civilization
Respiratory Tract Infections
income
market
methodology
horticulturists
Bolivia
Morbidity
Civilization
Social Support
infection
Health Status
lowlands

Keywords

  • Cooperation
  • Cortisol
  • Hierarchy
  • Status
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

Cite this

von Rueden, C. R., Trumble, B., Thompson, M. E., Stieglitz, J., Hooper, P. L., Blackwell, A. D., ... Gurven, M. (2014). Political influence associates with cortisol and health among egalitarian forager-farmers. Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, 2014(1), 122-133. [eou021]. https://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eou021

Political influence associates with cortisol and health among egalitarian forager-farmers. / von Rueden, Christopher R.; Trumble, Benjamin; Thompson, Melissa Emery; Stieglitz, Jonathan; Hooper, Paul L.; Blackwell, Aaron D.; Kaplan, Hillard S.; Gurven, Michael.

In: Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, Vol. 2014, No. 1, eou021, 01.01.2014, p. 122-133.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

von Rueden, CR, Trumble, B, Thompson, ME, Stieglitz, J, Hooper, PL, Blackwell, AD, Kaplan, HS & Gurven, M 2014, 'Political influence associates with cortisol and health among egalitarian forager-farmers', Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, vol. 2014, no. 1, eou021, pp. 122-133. https://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eou021
von Rueden, Christopher R. ; Trumble, Benjamin ; Thompson, Melissa Emery ; Stieglitz, Jonathan ; Hooper, Paul L. ; Blackwell, Aaron D. ; Kaplan, Hillard S. ; Gurven, Michael. / Political influence associates with cortisol and health among egalitarian forager-farmers. In: Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. 2014 ; Vol. 2014, No. 1. pp. 122-133.
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