It is known that the most "important" people have better health than those on the social ladder, so that in many countries the difference in life expectancy between social classes is measured in years. The same difference that there is in other species, close to man, such as the anthropomorphic monkeys and other primates. It was thought, however, that this was due to stress, which is much greater for those who are lower down the social ladder.

See also: Thus monkeys learn to look in the mirror

A study carried out at the Yerkes Primate Research Center, one of the most important primatological research institutes, has instead ascertained that it is sufficient to look at one's neighbors from the bottom up, to be worse.

Tormented. The research, conducted by a large group of US and Canadian scholars and published in the journal Science (abstract, in English), has in fact ascertained that the social position alone, even beyond any kind of environmental stress, modifies the composition of the cells of the immune system and others.

After creating a series of groups of females and allowing the social positions to stabilize, from the dominant to the last of the subordinates, the researchers mixed the cards (ie monkeys), creating different groups, and made sure that different hierarchies were formed.

They then examined many parameters related to blood and DNA. They found that along with stress-related substances, such as glucocorticoids, a low position increases the cells linked to the inflammatory response, which is triggered during a pest attack, which leads to greater health risks. The same also happens for genes that are activated in these conditions.

Shoulder slaps. From the behavioral point of view, it is not only the torments of which the "superiors" gratify the inferiors that increase stress and the immune response, but also and above all the lack of a shoulder to cry on and of friends who console.

The researchers conclude that these studies also clarify many aspects of human behavior.