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Contact with attractive women raises stress hormone levels in men

19 May 2010

The stress hormone cortisol increases in men if there is an attractive woman around. This has been revealed by research conducted by the Groningen biopsychologist Leander van der Meij that will be published in the prominent academic journal Hormones and Behavior.

Van der Meij tested 84 men aged between 18 and 27. These men had to wait for five minutes with a woman or man they had not met before. After this contact period, the men assessed the attractiveness of the person who had kept them company while they were waiting. The research revealed that cortisol levels rose depending on how attractive the woman was perceived to be.


The main characteristic of the hormone cortisol is that it is released under stress.  Chronically high cortisol levels can be bad for the health, but cortisol is also an important instrument in the body and plays a useful role during everyday events, including discussions with colleagues or a game of tennis.


Van der Meij expects that cortisol released during contact with an attractive woman has an activating effect, for example by making extra energy available. In this way, the release of cortisol could prepare men for flirting with women.

Note for the press

More information: Leander van der Meij, tel. 06-41822908,

Article: van der Meij L., Buunk A.P., and Salvador A. (in press). Contact with attractive women affects the release of cortisol in men. Hormones and Behavior.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.29 p.m.

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