Were there evolutionary advantages to premenstrual syndrome?

Michael R. Gillings*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)
    226 Downloads (Pure)


    Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects up to 80% of women, often leading to significant personal, social and economic costs. When apparently maladaptive states are widespread, they sometimes confer a hidden advantage, or did so in our evolutionary past. We suggest that PMS had a selective advantage because it increased the chance that infertile pair bonds would dissolve, thus improving the reproductive outcomes of women in such partnerships. We confirm predictions arising from the hypothesis: PMS has high heritability; gene variants associated with PMS can be identified; animosity exhibited during PMS is preferentially directed at current partners; and behaviours exhibited during PMS may increase the chance of finding a new partner. Under this view, the prevalence of PMS might result from genes and behaviours that are adaptive in some societies, but are potentially less appropriate in modern cultures. Understanding this evolutionary mismatch might help depathologize PMS, and suggests solutions, including the choice to use cycle-stopping contraception.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)897-904
    Number of pages8
    JournalEvolutionary Applications
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher. Evolutionary applications, http://doi.org/10.1111/eva.12190


    • Behavioural genomics
    • Evolutionary medicine
    • Evolutionary psychology
    • Human population
    • Neurotransmitter receptors
    • Sex hormones
    • Women's health


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