Chronic stress has been implicated in a variety of adverse health outcomes, from compromised immunity to cardiovascular disease to cognitive decline. The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis has been postulated to play the primary biological role in translating chronic stress into ill health. Stressful stimuli activate the HPA-axis and cause an increase in circulating levels of cortisol. Frequent and long-lasting activation of the HPA-axis, as occurs in recurrently stressful environments, can in the long run compromise HPA-axis functioning and ultimately affect health. Negative social interactions with family and friends may be a significant source of stress in daily life, constituting the type of recurrently stressful environment that could lead to compromised HPA functioning and altered diurnal cortisol rhythms. We use data from two waves (1995 and 2004-2005) of the Midlife in the U.S. (MIDUS) study and from the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE) and piecewise growth curve models to investigate relationships between histories of social strain and patterns of diurnal cortisol rhythms. We find that reported levels of social strain were significantly associated with their diurnal cortisol rhythm. These effects were more pronounced for individuals with a history of greater reported strain across a ten-year period.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)
- History and Philosophy of Science