Cortisol is a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands which is meant from an evolutionary point of view to calm people and to bring them back to a sense of security and peace after a tremendous shock or an argument.
Men’s cortisol levels go up for about an hour after an argument, to give you a good example, and it leaves them, and then they decline and go back to normal. It leaves them with a sense of optimism, of feeling enervated and powerful, and they forget the argument and feel actually paradoxically a little bit better for having been in an argument which is finished.
Women, on the other hand, have cortisol levels that are sustained for almost 24 hours, and the continuous production of this hormone has a paradoxical effect in that it makes women sleepless, anxious, depresses their immune system, and may even raise their blood sugar.
So, cortisol in women lasts longer after a stress and produces after a while more unpleasant effects than is the case for men.
Dr. Marianne J Legato Professor of Clinical Medicine, Columbia University
Dr. Marianne J. Legato is an academic physician, author, lecturer and specialist in women's health. She's Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and Founder/Director of the Partnership for Women’s Health. more about this expert »