MONDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- The inflated sense of self-importance common to narcissism can be toxic to relationships, but a new study suggests the personality trait may also harm men's health.
Researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Virginia determined that men who scored high on two destructive narcissistic traits -- entitlement and exploitativeness -- had markedly higher levels than others of cortisol, a stress hormone that can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems. While men and women are equally narcissistic, study authors said, the cortisol stress response was not noted in female participants.
"We generally see narcissism as a personality trait that's bad for others but not narcissists. It's bad for people in relationships with them," said study co-author Sara Konrath, an assistant research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. "This study was a way of getting under their skin to see if there are physical consequences."
The study is published Jan. 23 in the journal PLoS ONE.
Konrath and her colleagues administered a 40-item questionnaire to 106 college students that measured five components of narcissism, which is also characterized by self-absorption, overestimations of their uniqueness -- attractiveness or intelligence, for instance -- and a sense of grandiosity. They also measured cortisol levels twice in the students' saliva to assess baseline levels of the hormone, which signals activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), the body's key stress response system.
Three of narcissism's five personality components are considered useful or healthy: leadership/authority, superiority/arrogance and self-absorption/self-admiration. Konrath also noted that narcissists tend to be creative people with low levels of depression, but their fragile views of themselves can lead them
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