Salivary alpha-amylase response to acute psychosocial stress: the impact of age.Biol Psychol. 2011 Jul; 87(3):421-9.BP
The impact of stress on health varies across the different stages of human life. Aging is associated with psychobiological changes that could limit our ability to cope with stressors. Therefore, it is crucial to clarify the physiological mechanisms that underlie the stress response and the changes that occur in them as we age. Our aim was to investigate age differences in the salivary alpha amylase (sAA) response to stress, and its relationship with other typical stress biomarkers such as cortisol and heart rate (HR). Sixty-two participants divided into two age groups (younger group: N=31, age range: 18-35 years; older group: N=31, age range: 54-71 years) were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test and a control condition in a crossover design. No age differences were found in the sAA or HR responses to stress. However, the sAA global output was higher in older than younger adults. Additionally, in the stress condition, the total amount of cortisol released was positively related to the total sAA released, while the HR increase was positively related to the sAA increase. Our results do not support the existence of an attenuated autonomic nervous system response to stress in older adults, but rather a heightened sympathetic tone. Furthermore, we found further evidence of the coordination between the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system and the autonomic nervous system in their response to acute psychosocial stress.