Prior research with predominantly younger to middle-aged samples has demonstrated that couples’ cortisol levels covary throughout the day (cortisol synchrony). Not much is known about cortisol synchrony in old age, and its potential broader societal correlates. The current study investigates associations between the socio-political context and cortisol synchrony as observed in older couples’ daily lives. 160 older German couples (Mage = 72 years, range: 56–89) provided salivary cortisol samples 7 times daily for a 7-day period. Socio-political context was quantified using state-specific voting data from the 2017 German federal election along the left-right political spectrum. Multilevel models controlling for diurnal cortisol rhythm, food intake, sex, age, body mass index, education, and individual-level political orientation revealed evidence for synchrony in partners’ cortisol fluctuations (b = 0.03, p < .001). The extent of cortisol synchrony was moderated by left-right political context, such that older couples living in a federal state placed further right exhibited greater cortisol synchrony than couples living in a federal state placed further left (b = 0.01, p = .015). Findings point to the importance of considering the socio-political context of health-relevant biopsychosocial dynamics in old age. Future research needs to investigate mechanisms underlying such associations, including how politics shape opportunities and motivation for interdependencies that promote better or worse health.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry