Ageing, depression, anxiety, social support and the diurnal rhythm and awakening response of salivary cortisol.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Colleges, School and Institutes


The present study compared the cortisol awakening response and diurnal rhythm in 24 young healthy students and 48 community-dwelling older adults. The associations with diurnal cortisol and depression, anxiety and social support were also examined in relation to age. Salivary cortisol was measured over the course of one day: immediately upon awakening, 30 min later, and then 3h, 6h, 9h and 12h post-awakening. Participants completed a questionnaire measuring symptoms of anxiety and depression and social support was assessed. Older adults exhibited a significantly reduced awakening response, overall cortisol levels, area under the curve (AUC) and diurnal slopes than younger adults, resulting in a flatter diurnal rhythm. Younger adults with higher depression scores had significantly higher overall cortisol and higher levels upon awakening and 30 min post-awakening. In the younger adults, anxiety and depression correlated positively with AUC and the cortisol awakening response (CAR). Older adults with lower social support had a reduced AUC where younger adults with lower social support displayed a larger AUC. These findings suggest that the diurnal rhythm and awakening response of salivary cortisol are significantly reduced in older adults and the associations between anxiety, depression and social support and diurnal cortisol vary with age.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational journal of psychophysiology : official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010