Cortisol in hair measured in young adults - a biomarker of major life stressors?
2011 (English)In: BMC Clinical Pathology, ISSN 1472-6890, E-ISSN 1472-6890, Vol. 11, no 1, 12- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Background Stress as a cause of illness has been firmly established. In public health and stress research a retrospective biomarker of extended stress would be an indispensible aid. The objective of this pilot study was to investigate whether concentrations of cortisol in hair correlate with perceived stress, experiences of serious life events, and perceived health in young adults. Methods Hair samples were cut from the posterior vertex area of (n = 99) university students who also answered a questionnaire covering experiences of serious life events, perceived Stress Scale and perceived health during the last three months. Cortisol was measured using a competitive radioimmunoassay in methanol extracts of hair samples frozen in liquid nitrogen and mechanically pulverised. Results Mean cortisol levels were significantly related to serious life events (p = 0.045), weakly negatively correlated to perceived stress (p = 0.025, r = -0.061) but nor affected by sex, coloured/permed hair, intake of pharmaceuticals or self-reported health. In a multiple regression model, only the indicator of serious life events had an independent (p = 0.041) explanation of increased levels of cortisol in hair. Out of four outliers with extremely high cortisol levels two could be contacted, both reported serious psychological problems. Conclusions These findings suggest that measurement of cortisol in hair could serve as a retrospective biomarker of increased cortisol production reflecting exposure to major life stressors and possibly extended psychological illness with important implications for research, clinical practice and public health. Experience of serious life events seems to be more important in raising cortisol levels in hair than perceived stress.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
BioMed Central, 2011. Vol. 11, no 1, 12- p.
Biomarker; Coping; Cortisol; Hair; Serious life events; Stress
National CategoryPublic Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-74866DOI: 10.1186/1472-6890-11-12PubMedID: 22026917OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-74866DiVA: diva2:496644