The cortisol awakening response (CAR) interacts with acute interpersonal stress to prospectively predict depressive symptoms among early adolescent girls

Catherine B. Stroud, Suzanne Vrshek-Shallhorn, Emily M. Norkett, Leah Doane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The cortisol awakening response (CAR) has been shown to prospectively predict depression, but it remains unresolved whether a greater CAR predicts risk independently of subsequent acute stress, or whether greater CAR indicates increased vulnerability to subsequent acute stress. Further, no prior work has evaluated whether the CAR increases vulnerability to certain types of acute stress, but not others, in predicting depression. To address these gaps, we investigated whether the CAR predicted depressive symptoms alone and in interaction with acute interpersonal stress in a one-year longitudinal study of 86 early adolescent girls with no history of diagnosable depression. To index the CAR, adolescents collected saliva at waking and 30-minutes past waking for 3 days; compliance with the sampling protocol was electronically monitored. Diagnostic and objective contextual stress interviews were used to quantify acute stress in the 2-months prior to worst depressive symptom onset during the follow-up. Supporting hypotheses, results indicated that greater CAR predicted greater depressive symptoms, and interacted with acute interpersonal stress in predicting depressive symptoms. Further, the CAR interacted with acute dependent (i.e., at least partially arising from the person's behavior) interpersonal stress in predicting depressive symptoms. In contrast, the CAR did not interact with acute non-interpersonal stress nor acute interpersonal independent (i.e., fateful) stress in predicting depressive symptoms. These results further refine circumstances in which the CAR is predictive of depressive symptoms among early adolescent girls, and highlight the importance of focusing on etiologically relevant stress when testing interactions between physiological stress indicators and environmental stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-18
Number of pages10
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume107
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2019

Keywords

  • Cortisol awakening response
  • Dependent stress
  • Depressive symptoms
  • HPA axis
  • Interpersonal stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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