Diminished cortisol responses to psychosocial stress associated with lifetime adverse events a study among healthy young subjects.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2008 Feb; 33(2):227-37.P
Animal and human studies have found that prior stressful events can result in an altered reactivity in the HPA axis. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of adverse events in childhood on cortisol reactivity to psychosocial stress in young healthy subjects (n=80).
Salivary cortisol levels were measured before, during and after exposure to a psychosocial stress task in healthy men and women with high (n=33) and low (n=47) exposure to adverse childhood events.
A significant blunted cortisol response was found in individuals with a history of adverse events compared to individuals with no adverse life events, with no differences in baseline cortisol levels. This finding appeared to be primarily driven by men. The groups did not differ on any other physiological or subjective stress measure, including heart rate, blood pressure, and subjective tension.
These findings suggest that, at least in healthy young males, adverse childhood events are associated with changes in HPA-axis functioning. Longitudinal studies are needed to investigate whether the blunted cortisol response is a risk factor in the etiology of psychiatric disorders or rather reflects resiliency with regard to the development of psychopathology.