High levels of the stress hormone cortisol may contribute to the risk aversion and ‘irrational pessimism’ found among bankers and fund managers during financial crises, according to a new study. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands in response to moments of high physical stress, such as ‘fight or flight’. Importantly, cortisol also rises powerfully in situations of uncertainty, such as volatility in the financial markets. Cortisol prepares us for possible action by releasing glucose and free fatty acids into the blood. It also suppresses any bodily functions not needed during a crisis — such as the digestive, reproductive, and immune systems.
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