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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Sep;47:26-30. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.04.021. Epub 2014 May 4.

Elevated hair cortisol levels in chronically stressed dementia caregivers.

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Technische Universität Dresden, Department of Psychology, Dresden, Germany. Electronic address:
Technische Universität Dresden, Department of Psychology, Dresden, Germany.
Department of Medical Psychology, University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany.


Hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) are assumed to reflect integrated long-term cortisol levels and have been proposed as a promising endocrine marker of chronic psychological stress. The current study examined HCC in relation to caregiving burden, a well-established naturalistic model of chronic stress in humans. HCC and relevant psychosocial data were examined in 20 caregivers of relatives with dementia and 20 non-caregiver controls matched for age and sex. Results revealed elevated HCC in dementia caregivers compared to non-caregiver controls (F(1,38)=4.4, p=.04, ηp2=.10). Further, within caregivers, a trend for a positive association of HCC with self-reported caregiving burden (r=.43, p=.058) and a positive association with depressiveness (r=.48, p=.045) were observed. No other associations between HCC and subjective measures were seen. These findings concur with the notion that HCC sensitively capture endocrine aberrations in stress-exposed groups.


Caregiver; Chronic; Cortisol; Depression; Hair; Human; Stress

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