Circumcision does not alter long-term glucocorticoids accumulation or psychological effects associated with trauma- and stressor-related disorders

Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Mar 14;7(3):e1063. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.23.


Male infants and boys through early adolescence can undergo circumcision either for the sake of upholding religious traditions or for medical reasons. According to both, Jewish as well as Islamic tenets, circumcision is a religious rite symbolizing the bond with God. The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Council (UNC) as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommend circumcision to promote hygiene and prevent disease. This procedure has frequently been criticized by various communities claiming that circumcision in infancy and early adolescence were psychologically traumatizing with medical implications up into old age. Due to the lack of evidence concerning an alleged increase in vulnerability, we measured objective and subjective stress and trauma markers, including glucocorticoids from hair samples, in circumcised and non-circumcised males. We found no differences in long-term limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, subjective stress perception, anxiety, depressiveness, physical complaints, sense of coherence and resilience. Rather, an increase in the glucocorticoid levels indicated a healthy lifestyle and appropriate functioning. Thus, our findings provide evidence that male circumcision does not promote psychological trauma. Moreover, a qualitative approach, the ambivalence construct, was used for the discussion, aiming at a discourse devoid of biases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Circumcision, Male / psychology*
  • Cortisone / metabolism*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism
  • Hair / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Psychological Trauma / metabolism
  • Psychological Trauma / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Cortisone
  • Hydrocortisone