Apparently, a lot according to this Wall Street Journal article entitled “Are Alpha Males Healthy?”:
It isn’t easy being an alpha male. Getting to the top and staying there takes a physical toll.
The latest evidence comes from wild baboons in Kenya’s Amboseli basin. Researchers from Princeton and Duke universities studied 125 males in five groups over nine years and found that while the alpha males got the best food and the most mates, they experienced far more stress than the beta males just beneath them in the hierarchy, based on the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in fecal samples.
The beta males had almost as many mates and got just as much grooming from others, but they didn’t have to spend as much time fighting or following females around to keep other males away.
The article mentions a book called Alpha Male Syndrome. I took a look at it on Amazon and found that is written by a psychologist and her husband who “steer Alphas and those who work with them away from dysfunction and towards productivity in this action-oriented book that may miss its overconfident primary target.” So being an alpha male is “dysfunctional?”
While it is possible that alphas are more stressed and that betas have a more relaxing life, I’m not so sure. Betas have their own problems, we may just not have enough research and understanding of beta men to see the impact on their psychological life and on society. It seems to me that this article and book is more of an exercise in steering masculine men towards acting more like women, though in a subtle way by saying “being an alpha is bad for your health, it could kill you.”
Do you think being an Alpha male is unhealthy? If so, is being a Beta better?