Cortisol secretory activity in older people in relation to positive and negative well-being

Evans, Philip D., Forte, D., Jacobs, C., Fredhoi, Cathrine, Aitchison, E., Hucklebridge, Frank and Clow, Angela (2007) Cortisol secretory activity in older people in relation to positive and negative well-being. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 32 (8-10). pp. 922-930. ISSN 0306-4530

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Secretion of the hormone cortisol, a physiological correlate of affect, has been studied mostly in relation to negative states, especially stress. By contrast, policy initiatives aimed at older populations now routinely emphasise well-being and a ‘positive ageing’ perspective. In this study, we examined diurnal salivary cortisol profiles from 50 active seniors recruited into a wider community research project (mean age 74 years; 34 F/16 M). Participants’ wrist activity was continuously monitored by actimeters in their homes over a 48 h period. During this time two diurnal cycles of cortisol data were collected (8 samples per day); with actimeter data providing a compliance check in regard to timing of self-administered saliva collections. Prior to the trial, participants had completed the GHQ-30 which was scored separately to yield both positive and negative well-being scores which matched closely normative data from over 6000 cases in a large survey. Our data suggest that positive and negative psychological well-being are quite strongly and inversely correlated. However, neither on their own was associated with basal levels of cortisol. Rather, for cortisol secretion in the 45-min period following awakening, but not during the rest of the day, we found a significant interaction between positive and negative well-being (p<0.024). Further analysis of this interaction showed that among participants low on negative well-being, higher positive well-being was significantly associated with lower cortisol; equally, among participants high on positive well-being, lower negative well-being was significantly associated with lower cortisol. Thus, a powerful synergy seemed to be operating in this early morning period such that cortisol secretion was 27% lower in participants with both higher-than-average positive well-being and lower-than-average negative well-being (comprising 34% of the sample). We conclude that cortisol secretion in the first 45 min following awakening is distinct from the rest of the day and most able to discriminate well-being states.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: University of Westminster > Social Sciences and Humanities
University of Westminster > Science and Technology > Life Sciences, School of (No longer in use)
Depositing User: Miss Nina Watts
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2008
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2009 12:59

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