Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 13–20

Education and Levels of Salivary Cortisol Over the Day in US Adults


    • School of Public Health, Hunter CollegeCity University of New York (CUNY)
    • CUNY Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR)
  • Nalini Ranjit
    • School of Public HealthUniversity of Texas
    • Michael and Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living
  • D. Phuong Do
    • Department of Health Services Policy and Management, Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South Carolina
  • Elizabeth A. Young
    • Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Michigan
  • James S. House
    • Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of Michigan
  • George A. Kaplan
    • Center for Social Epidemiology and Population HealthSchool of Public Health-University of Michigan
    • Department of Epidemiology, School of Public HealthUniversity of Michigan
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12160-010-9224-2

Cite this article as:
Dowd, J.B., Ranjit, N., Do, D.P. et al. ann. behav. med. (2011) 41: 13. doi:10.1007/s12160-010-9224-2



Dysregulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis is hypothesized to be an important pathway linking socioeconomic position and chronic disease.


This paper tests the association between education and the diurnal rhythm of salivary cortisol.


Up to eight measures of cortisol (mean of 5.38 per respondent) over 2 days were obtained from 311 respondents, aged 18–70, drawn from the 2001–2002 Chicago Community Adult Health Study. Multi-level models with linear splines were used to estimate waking level, rates of cortisol decline, and area-under-the-curve over the day, by categories of education.


Lower education (0–11 years) was associated with lower waking levels of cortisol, but not the rate of decline of cortisol, resulting in a higher area-under-the-curve for more educated respondents throughout the day.


This study found evidence of lower cortisol exposure among individuals with less education and thus does not support the hypothesis that less education is associated with chronic over-exposure to cortisol.


Socioeconomic factorsCortisolEducation

Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2010