Social role conflict predicts stimulated cytokine production among men, not women

Hannah M.C. Schreier*, Lauren C. Hoffer, Edith Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective To assess whether perceived role conflict is associated with stimulated pro-inflammatory cytokine production and glucocorticoid sensitivity, and whether these associations are moderated by sex. Methods 153 healthy adults (aged 45.8 ± 5.5 years, 78% female) listed their 3 main social roles and indicated the amount of role conflict they perceived between each pair of social roles. Subsequently, participants underwent blood draws and leukocyte response to microbial challenge and glucocorticoid sensitivity were assessed by incubating whole blood with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the presence or absence of hydrocortisone. Stimulated levels of Interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) were measured. Results Multiple regression analyses controlling for sociodemographics revealed significant sex × role conflict interactions for LPS-stimulated production of IL-1β, IL-6, and TNFα (all interaction ps < 0.05), and a marginal interaction on LPS-stimulated IL-8 production (interaction p < 0.10). Greater perceived role conflict was associated with greater pro-inflammatory cytokine production in response to microbial stimulation only among men, not women. There also were significant sex × role conflict interactions with respect to glucocorticoid sensitivity for IL-1β, IL-6, and TNFα production (all interaction ps < 0.05) and a marginal interaction for IL-8 (interaction p < 0.10). Greater perceived role conflict was unrelated to glucocorticoid sensitivity among women, but associated with less sensitivity to glucocorticoid signaling among men. Conclusions Perceived social role conflict, indicating greater perceived demand across multiple social roles, may take a greater toll on the regulation of inflammatory processes among men compared to women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-279
Number of pages8
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Inflammation
  • Role conflict
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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