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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Jun;37(6):801-9. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.09.012. Epub 2011 Oct 13.

The relationships of working conditions, recent stressors and childhood trauma with salivary cortisol levels.

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  • 1Research Department of Arkin Mental Health Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



An etiological model has been suggested where stress leads to high cortisol levels and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation, resulting in somatic diseases and psychopathology. To evaluate this model we examined the association of different stressors (working conditions, recent life events and childhood trauma) with various cortisol indicators in a large cohort study.


Data are from 1995 participants of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA). Most of the selected participants had a current or remitted anxiety and/or depressive disorder. Working conditions were assessed with self-report questionnaires, life-events and childhood trauma were assessed with interview questionnaires. Cortisol levels were measured in seven saliva samples, determining the 1-h cortisol awakening response (CAR), evening cortisol levels and cortisol suppression after a 0.5mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST).


Regression analyses--adjusted for covariates--showed two significant associations: low social support at work and high job strain were associated with more cortisol suppression after the DST. No other associations were found with any of the cortisol variables.


Working conditions, recent stressors and childhood trauma were not convincingly associated with cortisol levels.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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