Stress in childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, and cortisol levels in older age.
ABSTRACT: The glucocorticoid hypothesis suggests that overexposure to stress may cause permanent upregulation of cortisol. Stress in youth may therefore influence cortisol levels even in older age. Using data from the 6-Day Sample, we investigated the effects of high stress in childhood, adolescence and early adulthood - as well as individual variables contributing to these measures; parental loss, social deprivation, school and home moves, illness, divorce and job instability - upon cortisol levels at age 77 years. Waking, waking +45?min (peak) and evening salivary cortisol samples were collected from 159 participants, and the 150 who were not using steroid medications were included in this study. After correcting for multiple comparisons, the only significant association was between early-adulthood job instability and later-life peak cortisol levels. After excluding participants with dementia or possible mild cognitive impairment, early-adulthood high stress showed significant associations with lower evening and mean cortisol levels, suggesting downregulation by stress, but these results did not survive correction for multiple comparisons. Overall, our results do not provide strong evidence of a relationship between stress in youth and later-life cortisol levels, but do suggest that some more long-term stressors, such as job instability, may indeed produce lasting upregulation of cortisol, persisting into the mid-to-late seventies.
Project description:Psychobiological research with adolescent populations tends to focus on negative mood, stress, and psychopathology, but the role of positive emotions is insufficiently understood. The current study examines the relative contributions of both negative and positive affective experiences to the basal activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, measured by levels of cortisol across the waking day.A sample of 315 ethnically and racially diverse high school students (mean age = 17.1 years, 73% female) completed a multiple-day naturalistic salivary cortisol protocol twice over a 5-year period. Along with each saliva sample, youth provided diary reports of their current mood states. Principal components analysis revealed four factors: high arousal positive affect (PA), low arousal PA, high arousal negative affect (NA), and low arousal NA.Multilevel growth curve models suggested that greater high arousal PA was associated with adaptive patterns of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity: steeper cortisol slope from waking to bedtime and lower evening cortisol, independent of NA. In addition, increases in high arousal PA over the 5-year follow-up period were associated with a steepening of the diurnal cortisol slope (? = -0.038, p = .009; negative values indicate the decrease of cortisol throughout the day) and lower evening cortisol levels (? = -0.661, p = .027) based on within-person fixed-effect regression analysis.This study shows that high arousal PA, such as feeling alert and active, is associated with a steeper decline in cortisol throughout the day. Low arousal positive emotions did not display this relationship.
Project description:In this exploratory case-control study, we investigated basal cortisol regulation in 5-16-year-old children, 3-6 months following PICU (paediatric intensive care) admission. This was nested within a study of child psychological and cognitive function; 47 children were assessed alongside 56 healthy controls. Saliva samples were collected three times per day (immediately after waking, waking +30 min, and waking +12 h) over two consecutive weekdays. In addition, data on posttraumatic stress symptoms were ascertained from 33 PICU admitted children using the Impact of Events Scale-8 (IES-8). Primary analysis revealed no significant differences in basal cortisol concentrations between PICU discharged children and healthy controls (p > 0.05). Secondary analysis in the PICU group identified a significant positive association between posttraumatic stress symptoms and evening (waking +12 h) cortisol concentrations (p = 0.004). However, when subject to multivariate analysis, evening cortisol was a modest independent predictor of IES-8 scores, relative to the presence of septic illness and poor pre-morbid health. We conclude that paediatric critical illness does not appear to result in marked perturbations to basal cortisol at 3-6 month following discharge. There was evidence of a link between evening cortisol and symptoms of PTSD, but this was not a robust effect and requires further elucidation.
Project description:Perceived racial discrimination (PRD) has been associated with altered diurnal cortisol rhythms in past cross-sectional research. We investigate whether developmental histories of PRD, assessed prospectively, are associated with adult diurnal cortisol profiles. One-hundred and twelve (N=50 Black, N=62 White) adults from the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study provided saliva samples in adulthood (at approximately age 32 years) at waking, 30min after waking, and at bedtime for 7 days. Diurnal cortisol measures were calculated, including waking cortisol levels, diurnal cortisol slopes, the cortisol awakening response (CAR), and average daily cortisol (AUC). These cortisol outcomes were predicted from measures of PRD obtained over a 20-year period beginning when individuals were in 7th grade (approximately age 12). Greater average PRD measured across the 20-year period predicted flatter adult diurnal cortisol slopes for both Black and White adults, and a lower CAR. Greater average PRD also predicted lower waking cortisol for Black, but not White adults. PRD experiences in adolescence accounted for many of these effects. When adolescent and young adult PRD are entered together predicting cortisol outcomes, PRD experiences in adolescence (but not young adulthood) significantly predicted flatter diurnal cortisol slopes for both Black and White adults. Adolescent, but not young adult PRD, also significantly predicted lower waking and lower average cortisol for Black adults. Young adult PRD was, however, a stronger predictor of the CAR, predicting a marginally lower CAR for Whites, and a significantly larger CAR for Blacks. Effects were robust to controlling for covariates including health behaviors, depression, income and parent education levels. PRD experiences interacted with parent education and income to predict aspects of the diurnal cortisol rhythm. Although these results suggest PRD influences on cortisol for both Blacks and Whites, the key findings suggest that the effects are more pervasive for Blacks, affecting multiple aspects of the cortisol diurnal rhythm. In addition, adolescence is a more sensitive developmental period than adulthood for the impacts of PRD on adult stress biology.
Project description:The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axes are typically conceptualized as mutually inhibitory systems; however, previous studies have found evidence for positive within-person associations (i.e., coupling) between cortisol and testosterone. One developmental hypothesis is that positive testosterone-cortisol coupling is unique to the adolescent period and that coupling becomes attenuated, or even switches direction, in adulthood. This study used a lifespan sample (N=292, ages 11-88) to test for age-related differences in coupling between cortisol and testosterone in daily life. Participants provided salivary hormone samples at waking, 30min after waking, and during the evening for two days. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to test the within-person and between-person associations between testosterone and cortisol. Within-person associations were further decomposed into associations due to coupled diurnal change versus coupled variability around diurnal change. Results indicated positive associations between cortisol and testosterone at all levels of analysis. Additionally, positive coupling was evident across the lifespan, even in older adults who are no longer expected to reproduce, but further investigation of developmental differences with a larger sample is necessary. Potential mechanisms and functions for positive coupling are discussed.
Project description:AIM:To assess mental health outcomes of very low birthweight (VLBW, <1500 g) subjects to adulthood and to examine salivary cortisol and hair cortisol levels and their relation to birth characteristics and mental health. METHODS:A Swedish regional cohort of 56 VLBW subjects and 55 full-term controls were assessed at the ages 27-28 with adult self-reported scales and the mean of 2 days diurnal salivary cortisol and hair cortisol. The cohorts had been assessed at 15 years of age with youth self-reported scales. RESULTS:There were no differences between the groups in youth self-reported scales and adult self-reported scores. The 24 participating VLBW girls scored lower on youth self-reported scales externalising and total problem scores than the control girls. In adulthood, the 21 participating VLBW women had significantly higher morning concentrations of salivary cortisol than control women, P = .014. No significant associations were found between cortisol concentrations and adult self-reported scales internalising, externalising and total scores. CONCLUSION:Self-reported mental health in VLBW subjects was comparable with normal birthweight controls indicating a satisfying transition from adolescence to adulthood. VLBW females had higher morning salivary cortisol concentrations, suggesting a gender difference. We found no correlations between cortisol and mental health.
Project description:Effective regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) has been linked to numerous health outcomes. Within-person variation in diurnal measures of HPA-axis regulation assessed over days, months, and years can range between 50-73% of total variation. In this study of 59 youth (ages 8-13), we quantified the stability of the cortisol awakening response (CAR), the diurnal slope, and tonic cortisol concentrations at waking and bedtime across 8 days (2 sets of 4 consecutive days separated by 3 weeks), 3 weeks, and 3?years. We then compared the stability of these indices across three key developmental factors: age, pubertal status, and sex. Youth provided 4 saliva samples per day (waking, 30?min post-waking, before dinner, and before bedtime) for 4 consecutive days during the 3rd week of an ongoing 8-week daily diary study. Youth repeated this same sampling procedure 3 weeks and 3?years later. Using multi-level modeling, we computed the amount of variance in diurnal HPA-axis regulation that was accounted for by nesting an individual's diurnal cortisol indices within days, weeks, or years. Across days, diurnal slope was the most stable index, whereas waking cortisol and CAR were the least stable. All indices except bedtime cortisol were similarly stable when measured across weeks, and all indices were uniformly stable when measured across 3?years. Boys, younger participants, and youth earlier in their pubertal development at study enrollment exhibited greater HPA-axis stability overall compared with females and older, more physically mature participants. We conclude that important within- and between-subjects questions can be answered about health and human development by studying HPA-axis regulation, and selection of the index of interest should be determined in part by its psychometric characteristics. To this end, we propose a decision tree to guide study design for research in pediatric samples by longitudinal timeframe and sample characteristics.
Project description:Rumination is an involuntary cognitive process theorized to prolong arousal and inhibit proper emotion regulation. Most available research has examined individual differences in cognitive dispositions to ruminate about stress as a risk marker for psychopathology and other health problems. This intensive longitudinal study extended previous research by examining day-to-day associations of rumination about stress with objectively-measured actigraph-based sleep and diurnal salivary cortisol activity. Sixty-one healthy participants (Mage?=?20.91) completed up to five ecological momentary assessments (EMA) each day and wore actigraph wristwatches for eight days (N?=?488). On three of these days, participants provided five saliva samples assayed for cortisol (N?=?910). On average, greater daily stress levels were associated with shorter sleep duration and higher waking cortisol levels. In day-to-day analyses, greater daily stress levels, when combined with ruminating about daily stress more than usual, was associated with higher waking cortisol levels the following morning. Ruminating more than usual about daily stress, in the context of low-stress days, was also associated with flatter diurnal cortisol slopes the next day. These findings highlight the potential influences of daily stress, and rumination about stress, on sleep and diurnal cortisol activity - two important markers of health and well-being.
Project description:African-American adults are disproportionately affected by stress-related chronic conditions like high blood pressure (BP), and both environmental stress and genetic risk may play a role in its development.This study tested whether the dual risk of low neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) and glucocorticoid genetic sensitivity interacted to predict waking cortisol and BP.Cross-sectional waking cortisol and BP were collected from 208 African-American adults who were participating in a follow-up visit as part of the Positive Action for Today's Health trial. Three single-nucleotide polymorphisms were genotyped, salivary cortisol samples were collected, and neighborhood SES was calculated using 2010 Census data.The sample was mostly female (65 %), with weight classified as overweight or obese (M BMI = 32.74, SD = 8.88) and a mean age of 55.64 (SD = 15.21). The gene-by-neighborhood SES interaction predicted cortisol (B = 0.235, p = .001, r (2) = .036), but not BP. For adults with high genetic sensitivity, waking cortisol was lower with lower SES but higher with higher SES (B = 0.87). Lower neighborhood SES was also related to higher systolic BP (B = -0.794, p = .028).Findings demonstrated an interaction whereby African-American adults with high genetic sensitivity had high levels of waking cortisol with higher neighborhood SES, and low levels with lower neighborhood SES. This moderation effect is consistent with a differential susceptibility gene-environment pattern, rather than a dual-risk pattern. These findings contribute to a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the importance of investigating complex gene-environment relations in order to better understand stress-related health disparities.
Project description:This study examined whether dispositional optimism would be associated with reduced levels of cortisol secretion among individuals who perceive stress levels that are either higher than their normal average (i.e., within-person associations) or higher than the stress levels of other individuals (i.e., between-person associations).Stress perceptions and four indicators of diurnal cortisol (area-under-the-curve, awakening, afternoon/evening, and cortisol awakening response [CAR] levels) were assessed on 12 different days over 6 years in a sample of 135 community-dwelling older adults.Hierarchical linear models showed that although pessimists secreted relatively elevated area-under-the-curve, awakening, and afternoon/evening levels of cortisol (but not CAR) on days they perceived stress levels that were higher than their normal average, optimists were protected from these stress-related elevations in cortisol. However, when absolute stress levels were compared across participants, there was only a significant effect for predicting CAR (but not the other cortisol measures), indicating that optimism was associated particularly strongly with a reduced CAR among participants who experienced high levels of stress.Dispositional optimism can buffer the association between stress perceptions and elevated levels of diurnal cortisol when individuals perceive higher-than-normal levels of stress, and it may predict a reduced CAR among individuals who generally perceive high stress levels. Research should examine relative, in addition to absolute, levels of stress to identify the personality factors that help individuals adjust to psychological perceptions of stress.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Caregivers of stroke survivors often suffer depressive symptoms that interfere with their own health. Early recognition may lead to attenuation of symptoms and better health and well-being for caregivers. OBJECTIVE:We examined characteristics of caregivers and stroke survivors associated with caregivers' depressive symptoms in the early poststroke period. METHODS:We conducted a prospective, longitudinal exploratory observational study with a convenience sample of 63 caregivers of older adult (? 65 years) stroke survivors recruited from urban acute-care settings. We enrolled caregivers by 2 weeks poststroke (T1) and revisited them 4 weeks later (T2). Depressive symptoms were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. A separate unadjusted linear mixed model was computed to explore significant associations between each caregiver or stroke-survivor characteristic and depressive symptoms. RESULTS:Caregivers, on average, reported mild depressive symptoms at T1 and T2. Each of the following characteristics was independently associated with caregiver depressive symptoms over the first 6 weeks poststroke: caregiver uncertainty (p < 0.001), perceived stress (p < 0.001) but not cortisol levels (p = 0.858 on waking, p = 0.231 evening), coping (p < 0.001), social support (p = 0.006), race (p = 0.022), income (p = 0.001), time spent on care (p = 0.039), and stroke-survivor race (p = 0.033) and functional status (p = 0.003). At T2, caregiver depressive symptoms were correlated with evening cortisol level (p = 0.001). CONCLUSIONS:Caregiver and stroke-survivor characteristics may help identify caregivers at highest risk for early depressive symptoms and guide interventions aimed at their resolution.