Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Does having older brothers make us stressed?

21 November 2018

Is it stressful having older brothers? New research indicates it is!

New research from ICLS which looks at what factors could be most closely linked with teenagers' ability to cope with stress shows that having older brothers plays a role and that the more older brothers you have, the lower your stress resilience becomes.

The research by Scott Montgomery and colleagues uses data from Sweden to investigate whether older siblings are linked with the development of stress resilience in teenage boys and whether it makes a difference if those siblings are brothers or sisters.

After taking a host of background factors into account, including family circumstances and cognitive function, the research showed that having a larger number of older brothers was linked with lower stress resilience than having the same number of older sisters. 

Professor Montgomery believes the study is the first to look at the links between the sex of older siblings and stress resilience:

"What could be going on here is that older brothers are making greater demands on their parents' time, energy and material resources. They might also bully a younger brother. We speculate also that this could be having a negative knock on for the younger sibling's cognitive function."

He added: "Although there seems to be a strong link between having older brothers and lower stress resilience, this is not the case for all male siblings, but rather possibly the greater likelihood of aggressive, bullying or domineering behaviour exhibited by some males." 

The research group has previously shown that low stress resilience in adolescence increases the risk of poor mental and physical health, including heart disease in adulthood.