A recent perspective published in Science Signaling outlines the gender-specific differences in the stress response and the actions of glucocorticoids, and the female superiority in terms of dealing with stress and infections.
The sex-based immunological differences contribute to variations in the incidence of autoimmune diseases and malignancies, susceptibility to infectious diseases. For example, women have a lower risk of infections but are more susceptible to autoimmune/inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and autoimmune thyroid diseases.
In the Science Signaling perspective George Chrousos discusses these gender differences from an evolutionary perspective, including gene network evolution and steroid molecular actions, as well as sexual dimorphism even in the absence of estrogens and androgens.
The author provides a concise and contemporary view on the multilevel interactions between the stress, reproductive and immune systemsand how they may determine gender-specific stress and immune responses.
In terms of clinical implications, Chrousos goes further, discussing how stress response and immune and inflammatory reactions are more potent in women than in men.
This may explain the former’s higher prevalence of stress-related behavioral syndromes, such as anxiety, depression, psychosomatic and eating disorders, and autoimmune inflammatory or allergic disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and multiple sclerosis, or asthma, respectively.