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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Oct;37(10):1669-75. Epub 2012 Mar 18.

Cortisol serum levels in familial longevity and perceived age: the Leiden longevity study.

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Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.



Cortisol levels are strongly associated with a person's health. Familial longevity and age assessment of facial photographs (perceived age) are both associated with morbidity and mortality. The present study aimed to investigate morning cortisol levels in familial longevity and the association of these levels with perceived age.


Perceived age and serum morning cortisol levels were measured for 138 offspring from long-lived families and 138 partners from the Leiden Longevity Study. Considered confounding factors were chronological age, gender, body mass index, current smoking habits, antidepressant drug use, antihypertensive drugs and diabetes medication.


In the fully adjusted model, which was restricted to participants who did not use antidepressant drugs, offspring had similar serum cortisol levels compared to their partners (0.54 and 0.55μmol/L, respectively; p=0.54). Using a similar model taking offspring and partners together, an increase of 0.1μmol/L in morning cortisol levels was associated with an 0.42 (95% CI 0.0-0.84, p=0.048) year increase in perceived age. This association was significantly attenuated in the offspring group (0.01, 95% CI -0.58 to 0.59, p=0.98) compared to the partner group (0.81, 95% CI 0.20-1.41, p=0.009 year increase in perceived age per 0.1μmol/L increase in cortisol respectively) (p for interaction=0.042).


This study demonstrates that high levels of cortisol are associated with a higher perceived age. This association was attenuated in offspring from long-lived families compared to their partners, suggesting enhanced stress resistance in these subjects. Future research will be aimed at elucidating potential mechanisms underlying the observations in this study.

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