Sociological studies have found that middle managers tend to be more stressed than either their bosses or their underlings. That phenomenon might well be true of all primates, as macaques display heightened stress levels when they are in the middle of their social hierarchy.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool and the University of Manchester spent 600 hours observing the behavior of female Barbary macaques at the UK's Trentham Monkey Forest. They analyzed the females' social interactions to figure out where they stood in the macaque hierarchy, and then they collected poop samples to determine which monkeys showed the highest levels of stress hormones. The monkeys in the middle consistently had the most stressed-out shit, as the University of Manchester's Dr. Susanne Schultz rather more elegantly explained:
"What we found was that monkeys in the middle of the hierarchy are involved with conflict from those below them as well as from above, whereas those in the bottom of the hierarchy distance themselves from conflict. The middle ranking macaques are more likely to challenge, and be challenged by, those higher on the social ladder."
Speaking to the BBC, Liverpool research Katie Edwards explains how these findings might also apply to human interactions:
"People working in middle management might have higher levels of stress hormones compared to their boss at the top or the workers they manage. They may want to access the higher-ranking lifestyle which could mean facing more challenges, whilst also having to maintain their authority over lower-ranking workers."
The original paper has been published in General and Comparative Endocrinology.
Image by suetupling on Flickr.