Psychological resilience and diurnal salivary cortisol in young adulthood

Kristen Nishimi, Karestan C. Koenen, Brent A. Coull, Suzanne C. Segerstrom, S. Bryn Austin, Laura D. Kubzansky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Adversity exposure and the negative psychological responses that often result have been linked with poor physical health outcomes and deteriorative physiological processes, like dysregulated circulating cortisol. Individuals exposed to early adversity who also demonstrate positive psychological functioning may be characterized as psychologically resilient, but few studies have evaluated whether psychological resilience may disrupt the health-damaging effects of adversity. We tested the hypothesis that among young adults exposed to early adversity, those who are psychologically resilient may manifest more normative diurnal cortisol patterns relative to those who experience more psychological distress. Methods: Data are from Growing Up Today Study I participants who provided information on psychological resilience and diurnal salivary cortisol (n = 916). Psychological resilience was derived from self-report questionnaires administered between 2007 and 2010, and salivary cortisol was obtained from saliva samples collected between 2011 and 2014. The predictor of interest, psychological resilience, was defined using two domains: (1) adversity exposure measured via a count of 7 potential psychosocial adversities experienced before age 18, and (2) psychological health in young adulthood measured via a composite score reflecting low psychological distress and high positive affect. The outcome was mean log-transformed diurnal salivary cortisol across 4 samples from one day. Linear regressions evaluated associations of adversity, psychological health, and their potential multiplicative interaction with mean diurnal log-transformed cortisol, adjusting for baseline socio-demographic variables and biological and behavioral factors from the day of saliva sampling. Results: Relatively few individuals with high adversity demonstrated positive psychological health. Both adversity exposure and psychological health were independently associated with mean log cortisol levels. Models stratified by lower versus higher adversity suggested complex relationships with cortisol, however the interaction between adversity and psychological health was not statistically significant. High adversity was associated with blunted cortisol levels, regardless of psychological health. Conversely, among those with lower adversity, overall levels of cortisol were higher and psychological health associated with more normative, lower cortisol levels. Conclusions: Psychological resilience domains were independently associated with diurnal salivary cortisol in young adulthood. High burden of early adversity may disrupt the physiological stress system, while psychological health may be associated with more normative cortisol levels when adversity is low.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105736
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume140
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors would like to thank the Channing Division of Network Medicine Biorepository and Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) team of investigators for their contributions to this paper and the thousands of young people across the country participating in the GUTS cohort. This study was funded by NIH grants HD057368 and HD066963 . Kristen Nishimi is supported by NIH grant T32 MH 017119-33 , the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness Dissertation Research Award, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Academic Affiliations Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment , the Medical Research Service of the SFVAHCS , and the Department of Veterans Affairs Sierra-Pacific Mental Illness Research , Education, and Clinical Center ( MIRECC ). San Francisco VA Healthcare System. Brent Coull is supported by NIH grant ES000002. S. Bryn Austin is supported by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health project , Maternal and Child Health Bureau , Health Resources and Services Administration grants T71-MC00009 and T76-MC00001 . The funders played no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data, in writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Funding Information:
The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors would like to thank the Channing Division of Network Medicine Biorepository and Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) team of investigators for their contributions to this paper and the thousands of young people across the country participating in the GUTS cohort. This study was funded by NIH grants HD057368 and HD066963. Kristen Nishimi is supported by NIH grant T32 MH 017119-33, the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness Dissertation Research Award, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Academic Affiliations Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment, the Medical Research Service of the SFVAHCS, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Sierra-Pacific Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC). San Francisco VA Healthcare System. Brent Coull is supported by NIH grant ES000002. S. Bryn Austin is supported by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health project, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration grants T71-MC00009 and T76-MC00001. The funders played no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data, in writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. None.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022

Keywords

  • Diurnal cortisol
  • Early adversity
  • Psychological health
  • Psychological resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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