Stress-Induced Depression: Is Social Rank a Predictive Risk Factor?

Bioessays. 2018 Jul;40(7):e1800012. doi: 10.1002/bies.201800012. Epub 2018 Jun 4.


An intriguing question in the field of stress is what makes an individual more likely to be susceptible or resilient to stress-induced depression. Predisposition to stress susceptibility is believed to be influenced by genetic factors and early adversity. However, beyond genetics and life experiences, recent evidence has highlighted social rank as a key determinant of susceptibility to stress, underscoring dominant individuals as the vulnerable ones. This evidence is in conflict with epidemiological, clinical, and animal work pointing at a link between social subordination and depression. Here, we review and analyze rodent protocols addressing the relevance of social rank to predict vulnerability to chronic social stress. We also discuss whether a specific social status (i.e., dominance or subordination) is the appropriate predictor of vulnerability to develop stress-induced depression or rather, the loss of social rank and resources.

Keywords: depression; metabolites; nucleus accumbens; social defeat stress; social hierarchy; vulnerability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Depression / genetics
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*