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Higher cortisol awakening response in young adolescents with persistent anxiety problems

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Greaves-Lord K, Ferdinand RF, Oldehinkel AJ, Sondeijker FEPL, Ormel J, Verhulst FC. Higher cortisol awakening response in young adolescents with persistent anxiety problems. Objective: 

The aims of the present study were to test the association between current anxiety problems and basal cortisol levels in a large population sample of young preadolescents, and to test if HPA-axis activity differs between individuals with no, only current, or persistent anxiety problems. Method: 

Cortisol levels of 10- to 12-year olds (n = 1768) from the general population were measured on three time points during the day. A self-report questionnaire (RCADS) was used to assess current anxiety, a parent-report questionnaire (TPBQ) to assess anxiety problems at age 4. Results: 

Associations between cortisol levels and current anxiety problems were not found. However, individuals with persistent anxiety problems had higher morning cortisol levels and a higher cortisol awakening response. Conclusion: 

Apparently, only persistent, and not current, anxiety problems are associated with higher HPA-axis activity. Alterations in HPA-axis activity might underlie persistent anxiety problems, or result from the stress accompanied by persistent anxiety problems.

Keywords: Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System (HPA-axis); adolescent; anxiety; population

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam/ Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: August 1, 2007


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