President Obama is hardest hit by the news narcissism may have a very negative effect on the health of men.
The personality trait narcissism may have an especially negative effect on the health of men, according to a recent study published in PLoS ONE.
"Narcissistic men may be paying a high price in terms of their physical health, in addition to the psychological cost to their relationships," says Sara Konrath, a University of Michigan psychologist who co-authored the study.
Earlier studies by Konrath and others have shown that the level of narcissism is rising in American culture, and that narcissism tends to be more prevalent among males. The personality trait is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, overestimations of uniqueness, and a sense of grandiosity.
For the new study, Konrath and colleagues David Reinhard of the University of Virginia, and William Lopez and Heather Cameron of the University of Michigan examined the role of narcissism and sex on cortisol levels in a sample of 106 undergraduate students. Cortisol, which can be measured through saliva samples, is a widely used marker of physiological stress.
The researchers measured cortisol levels at two points in time in order to assess baseline levels of the hormone, which signals the level of activation of the body's key stress response system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Participants were not asked to complete any tasks that would elevate their stress. Elevated levels of cortisol in a relatively stress-free situation would indicate chronic HPA activation, which has significant health implications, increasing the risk of cardiovascular problems.
To assess participants' narcissism, the researchers administered a 40-item narcissism questionnaire that measures five different components of the personality trait.