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Depress Anxiety. 2014 Jan;31(1):44-52. doi: 10.1002/da.22125. Epub 2013 Apr 19.

Cortisol reactivity to experimentally manipulated psychosocial stress in young adults at varied risk for depression.

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  • 1Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee.


This study examined cortisol and affective reactivity to a psychosocial stress task in 102 young adults who varied in risk for depression (56 remitted depressed, 46 never depressed). Participants were randomly assigned to either a stress (i.e., social-evaluative threat) or control (i.e., no social-evaluative threat) condition. For never-depressed individuals, cortisol responses were significantly greater in the stress compared to the control condition. Moreover, cortisol responses were significantly greater for never-depressed than remitted-depressed individuals in the stress condition. For individuals with a history of depression, cortisol responses did not differ significantly between the stress and control conditions. Negative affective reactivity also was higher for never depressed, but not remitted depressed, individuals in the stress compared to the control condition. Moreover, cortisol responses were inversely related to negative affect during the recovery phase in both stress and control conditions. Findings indicate the lack of a robust cortisol response to social evaluation stress among remitted-depressed individuals as compared to that of never-depressed controls. Future studies should investigate unique and interactive links between these hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and affective reactivity alterations and risk for subsequent depressive episodes.

© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


cortisol; depression; negative affect; remission; stress

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