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Life Sci. 2005 Apr 8;76(21):2431-43. Epub 2005 Jan 26.

Electronic monitoring of salivary cortisol sampling compliance in daily life.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Naturalistic research methods have been developed to collect data in the daily environment, providing ecological valid measures. Recent reports suggest, however, that compliance with fixed time sampling protocols may be problematic and can bias results. This study investigated compliance with an intensive, random time sampling protocol for salivary cortisol and effects of non-compliance on cortisol results. Twenty female twin pairs and nineteen of their sisters were instructed to take saliva samples when signaled at ten unpredictable moments on each of five consecutive days. Subjects recorded collection times, unaware that compliance with the sampling protocol was being investigated by means of electronic monitoring devices. Samples taken < or = 15 min after the signal, according to self-report, were defined as adherent to the protocol. Samples taken < or = 10 min after the self-reported collection time, according to the monitor, were defined as accurate. Self-reported adherence to the sampling protocol was 96.4%. Verified compliance was somewhat lower, with 81% of all saliva samples accurately timed. Contrary to previous reports, inclusion of non-compliant samples in the analysis did not distort the cortisol diurnal profile. Intensive, random time sampling appears to have advantages over fixed time sampling for obtaining valid cortisol profiles when researchers do not have devices to monitor compliance. Results indirectly support the validity of momentary self-report data about daily experiences obtained with the same sampling methods.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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