Social stress shortens lifespan in mice

Aging Cell. 2018 Aug;17(4):e12778. doi: 10.1111/acel.12778. Epub 2018 May 28.


Stress and low socioeconomic status in humans confer increased vulnerability to morbidity and mortality. However, this association is not mechanistically understood nor has its causation been explored in animal models thus far. Recently, cellular senescence has been suggested as a potential mechanism linking lifelong stress to age-related diseases and shorter life expectancy in humans. Here, we established a causal role for lifelong social stress on shortening lifespan and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease in mice. Specifically, we developed a lifelong chronic psychosocial stress model in which male mouse aggressive behavior is used to study the impact of negative social confrontations on healthspan and lifespan. C57BL/6J mice identified through unbiased cluster analysis for receiving high while exhibiting low aggression, or identified as subordinate based on an ethologic criterion, had lower median and maximal lifespan, and developed earlier onset of several organ pathologies in the presence of a cellular senescence signature. Critically, subordinate mice developed spontaneous early-stage atherosclerotic lesions of the aortic sinuses characterized by significant immune cells infiltration and sporadic rupture and calcification, none of which was found in dominant subjects. In conclusion, we present here the first rodent model to study and mechanistically dissect the impact of chronic stress on lifespan and disease of aging. These data highlight a conserved role for social stress and low social status on shortening lifespan and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease in mammals and identify a potential mechanistic link for this complex phenomenon.

Keywords: aggression; atherosclerosis; healthspan; lifespan; senescence; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Corticosterone / metabolism
  • Longevity*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Animal
  • Stress, Psychological*


  • Corticosterone