Stress in Young People
There is now a huge body of research on the PSR, much of it laboratory based, which focuses on reactions to stress. Much less research has been conducted on community samples and even less on children and young people. PaLS was one of the first studies to collect morning cortisol via saliva samples in a naturalistic (school) setting, the results providing normative data for 15 year-olds in the community.
Stress is recognised as a major contributor to many, if not all psychiatric disorders, and particularly so in relation to traumatic stress disorder and anxiety and depressive disorders. However, in spite of a large psychiatric literature, findings on the relationship between cortisol and disorders have been inconsistent, partly because of the small and idiosyncratic nature of many studies. To study this, a sub-sample of 500 PaLS participants completed a computerised psychiatric interview. With only one exception, there was no relationship between the experience of traumatic events (such as witnessing a death, or being attacked or beaten) and cortisol. The exception was that cortisol was higher among females who reported being threatened with a weapon, but lower in males, a difference suggesting that the link between antisocial behaviour and cortisol operates differently for each gender.
Young R, Sweeting H, West P. Associations between DSM-IV diagnosis, psychiatric symptoms and morning cortisol levels in a community sample of adolescents. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2012;47:723-733pubmed open access
Sweeting H, West P, Young R, Kelly S. Dimensions of adolescent subjective social status within the school community: description and correlates. Journal of Adolescence 2011;34:493-504pubmed open access
West P, Sweeting H, Young R, Kelly S. The relative importance of family socioeconomic status and school-based peer hierarchies for morning cortisol in youth: an exploratory study. Social Science & Medicine 2010;70:1246-53pubmed open access
Young R. Trauma, attempted suicide and morning cortisol in a community sample of adolescents. Journal of Traumatic Stress 2010;23:288–291open access
Cortisol is a hormone that is involved in the response to stress; it increases blood pressure and blood sugar levels and suppresses the immune system. Changes in serum cortisol levels have been observed in connection with clinical depression, psychological distress, and such physiological stressors as hypoglycaemia, illness, fever and physical exertion.
- SES Socio-economic Status
A common medical term for thoughts about suicide which may be as detailed as a formulated plan, without the suicidal act itself.