The usefulness of patterns of cortisol secretion as a biomarker of well-being in healthy young participants

We have used an intensive four-day study design, including strict monitoring of participant adherence to the requested saliva sampling protocol as well as comprehensive assessment of trait and stat well-being and ill-being, to explore the usefulness of cortisol as a biomarker of psychological status in healthy young females.

We have found that no aspect of the diurnal pattern of salivary cortisol secretion (the CAR or day decline) is associated with indices of either trait or state well-being or ill-being. We have interpreted this in terms of neurotoxicity hypothesis of HPA axis function, where healthy young participants can show resilience to the negative impact of psychological distress. In contrast, older people, having been exposed to more prolonged periods of life events, are more likely to show dysfunctional HPA axis function (ie neurotoxicity), measureable by aberrant patterns of cortisol secretion.