Stress in the social context: a behavioural and eco-evolutionary perspective

Kirsty j. Macleod*, Sinead English, Suvi k. Ruuskanen, Barbara Taborsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The social environment is one of the primary sources of challenging stimuli that can induce a stress response in animals. It comprises both short-term and stable interactions among conspecifics (including unrelated individuals, mates, potential mates and kin). Social stress is of unique interest in the field of stress research because (1) the social domain is arguably the most complex and fluctuating component of an animal's environment; (2) stress is socially transmissible; and (3) stress can be buffered by social partners. Thus, social interactions can be both the cause and cure of stress. Here, we review the history of social stress research, and discuss social stressors and their effects on organisms across early life and adulthood. We also consider cross-generational effects. We discuss the physiological mechanisms underpinning social stressors and stress responses, as well as the potential adaptive value of responses to social stressors. Finally, we identify outstanding challenges in social stress research, and propose a framework for addressing these in future work.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb245829
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
B.T. acknowledges financial support by the Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (SNSF, project 310030_207448). S.E. was supported by a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship (DH140236).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


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