, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 13-20
Date: 02 Sep 2010

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

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Abstract

Background

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

Purpose

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

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

This research was supported, in part, by Grant P50HD38986 and R01HD050467 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Elizabeth A. Young is deceased.