But the fact of the matter, explains Sapolsky, is that there is no consistent difference in cortisol production at all between men and women. It really all comes down to the hormone called oxytocin.


In women, when cortisol and epinephrine rush through the bloodstream in a stressful situation, oxytocin comes into play. It is released from the brain, countering the production of cortisol and epinephrine, and promoting nurturing and relaxing emotions.

While men also secrete the hormone oxytocin when they're stressed, it's in much smaller amounts, leaving them on the short end of the stick when it comes to stress and hormones.


It’s more difficult to study women than men — women have monthly hormonal cycles, and depending on where they are in their cycle, these hormones can affect the outcome of studies. To get around this, many researchers exclusively study males. The assumption, until recently, was that non-reproductive data gathered about men would also apply to women.

The researchers gathered 56 women and 254 men from the parent study. The subjects were asked to perform three tasks that were mentally stressful: a mental math test, a mirror tracing test, and an anger recall test. To compare the effects of mental stress to exercise, the volunteers also completed a treadmill test. At each step in the process, the scientists measured the participants’ heart activity and took blood samples.

The men in the group showed larger increases in blood pressure and heart rate in response to mental stress compared to the women. The women, however, experienced fewer positive emotions and more negative emotions. They also had increased platelet aggregation (which leads to the formation of blood clots), and more frequent signs of cardiac ischemia, or reduced blood flow to the heart.

“Psychosocial stress affects men and women differently; the fact that women had more platelet clumping and cardiac ischemia suggests women may have different mechanisms of low blood flow to the heart,” said Dr.

Samad believes that mental stress shouldn’t be overlooked when evaluating a patient’s heart disease risk.

“Psychosocial stress is not routinely evaluated when working up patients for heart disease; clearly this is important and needs to be recognized,” she said. “Unlike physical stress, psychosocial stress patients experience is not predictable or controllable. But we can teach patients to be more mindful about being ‘stressed out’ and how to cope with psychosocial stress in healthier ways.”

With reduced PGC-1a, the number of estrogen receptors in the male mice decreased. This took away the protective effects of estrogen in the males and increased their inflammation levels.

Men and women report different reactions to stress, both physically and mentally. They attempt to manage stress in very different ways and also perceive their ability to do so — and the things that stand in their way — in markedly different ways. Findings suggest that while women are more likely to report physical symptoms associated with stress, they are doing a better job connecting with others in their lives and, at times, these connections are important to their stress management strategies. 

Stress on the Rise for Women

Though they report similar average stress levels, women are more likely than men to report that their stress levels are on the rise. They are also much more likely than men to report physical and emotional symptoms of stress. When comparing women with each other, there also appears to be differences in the ways that married and single women experience stress. 


Source: sharecare.com;healthline.com;webmd.com ;apa.org