Life at the bottom of the pecking order ramps up inflammation, according to new research, an effect that appears to be reversible. The link between social class and health in social mammals has been well documented. But new research in rhesus monkeys could shed light on the mechanism behind these observations. In a study of 45 female monkeys, researchers observed that changes in social status affected genes that associated with stress and inflammation. The lower a monkey’s social status, the more poorly her immune system performed. The authors note that monkeys of lower social status have been previously shown to experience high stress since they endure harassment by higher-ranking individuals. This study bolsters the link between stress and poor immune function.
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