The assessment of cortisol in human hair: Association with sociodemographic variables and potential confounders

Department of Psychology, Technische Universität , Dresden , Germany.
Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands) (Impact Factor: 2.72). 02/2012; 15(6):578-88. DOI: 10.3109/10253890.2012.654479
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ABSTRACT To inform the future use of hair cortisol measurement, we have investigated influences of potential confounding variables (natural hair colour, frequency of hair washes, age, sex, oral contraceptive (OC) use and smoking status) on hair cortisol levels. The main study sample comprised 360 participants (172 women) covering a wide range of ages (1-91 years; mean = 25.95). In addition, to more closely examine influences of natural hair colour and young age on hair cortisol levels, two additional samples comprising 69 participants with natural blond or dark brown hair (hair colour sample) as well as 28 young children and 34 adults (young age sample) were recruited. Results revealed a lack of an effect for natural hair colour, OC use, and smoking status on hair cortisol levels (all p's >0.10). No influence of frequency of hair washes was seen for proximal hair segments (p = 0.335) but for the third hair segment indicating lower cortisol content (p = 0.008). We found elevated hair cortisol levels in young children and older adults (p < 0.001). Finally, men showed higher hair cortisol levels than women (p = 0.002). The present data indicate that hair cortisol measurement provides a useful tool in stress-related psychobiological research when applied with the consideration of possible confounders including age and sex.

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Available from: Tobias Stalder, Nov 17, 2014
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    • "Furthermore , a range of studies have now provided direct and indirect support for the validity of HCC as measures of longterm cortisol secretion (Thomson et al., 2010; Stalder and Kirschbaum, 2012). Only recently, potentially influencing factors on HCC have been studied (Dettenborn et al., 2012; Feller et al., 2014) and reviewed (Wosu et al., 2013). Socioeconomic aspects, age, race, psychiatric symptoms, and hair characteristics have been identified as important factors associated with HCC. "
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    ABSTRACT: Hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) are emerging as a promising marker of chronic psychosocial stress. However, limited information on relevant correlates of this biomarker in late pregnancy is available. In the Ulm SPATZ Health Study mothers were recruited between 04/2012 and 05/2013 shortly after delivery in the University Medical Center Ulm, Germany. Cortisol concentrations of N=768 participants were determined by HPLC-MS/MS in the scalp-near 3cm of maternal hair reflecting stress exposure over the preceding three months. Sociodemographic characteristics, pregnancy-related variables and comorbidities were assessed. We conducted bivariate and multiple linear regression analyses using log transformed HCC. In bivariate analyses, significantly higher cortisol concentrations were found in obese compared to normal weight (b=0.32, p<0.001) and smoking as opposed to non-smoking mothers (b=0.34, p=0.002). Conversely, primary C-section was associated with lower HCC compared to spontaneous delivery. Besides, a strong impact of season of delivery with significantly higher HCC in summer and autumn as opposed to winter (both bs=0.58, p<0.001) was found. Further determinants of HCC were maternal education, number of persons in the household, premature delivery and hair characteristics. In a mutually adjusted model, all but education, multiple jobholding, hair characteristics and premature delivery remained statistically significant. Maternal hair cortisol in the last trimester of pregnancy is determined by many factors. Delivery mode, body mass index and season of delivery should be considered when investigating the association between HCC and further outcomes in mothers shortly after delivery. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 12/2014; 52C(1):289-296. DOI:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.12.006 · 4.94 Impact Factor
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    • "Future studies of HCC should account for race/ ethnicity and factors related to hair maintenance and aesthetics. Our study results showing statistically significantly higher median HCC among smokers is inconsistent with some previous findings [12] [15] "
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated the feasibility of obtaining hair samples from men and women at community-based barbershops and hair salons for analysis of cortisol and assessed sociodemographic and lifestyle correlates of hair cortisol concentrations (HCCs). A total of 102 participants completed the study. Research staff interviewed participants using a structured questionnaire, and samples of hair were collected. HCCs were determined using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Age- and sex-adjusted linear regression models were used to evaluate the association of HCC with covariates. Analyses by race/ethnicity showed highest median HCC in blacks (12.5 [6.9-29.3]) pg/mg) followed by Hispanics (10.7 [5.8-14.9] pg/mg), whites (5.0 [3.8-10.8] pg/mg), and other participants (4.2 [3.3-15.7] pg/mg), P < .01. Current smokers had significantly higher median HCC (11.7 [8.8-18.9] pg/mg) compared with former smokers (4.6 [3.5-14.6] pg/mg) and those who had never smoked (6.9 [4.7-12.8] pg/mg), P = .04. After adjustment for age and sex, geometric mean HCC was 0.72 pg/mg lower in dyed hair compared with hair that was not dyed (β = -0.72, standard error = 0.30, 95% confidence interval, -1.29 to -0.15, P = .02). HCC can be assessed in community-based studies. Future HCC studies should consider cosmetic hair treatment, cigarette smoking, and the potential role of psychosocial stressors in the association between race/ethnicity and HCC. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Annals of epidemiology 11/2014; DOI:10.1016/j.annepidem.2014.11.022 · 2.00 Impact Factor
    • "In this regard, natural hair color (Dettenborn et al., 2012), daily use of hair products (Manenschijn et al., 2011a) and smoking (Skoluda et al., 2012) do not affect HCC. Meanwhile, inconsistent findings were found with regard to the influence of age, sex, weight-related parameters and hair washing (Dettenborn et al., 2012; Stalder & Kirschbaum, 2012; Stalder et al., 2012). In addition, Russell et al. (2014) recently demonstrated that human sweat contains cortisol, which likely contributes to hair cortisol content. "
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract The analysis of hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) is a promising new biomarker for retrospective measurement of chronic stress. The effect of basic military training (BMT) on chronic stress has not yet been reported. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of 10-week BMT on HCC, while further exploring the role of known and novel covariates. Young healthy male recruits of the Swiss Army participated twice, ten weeks apart, in data collection (1(st) examination: n = 177; 2(nd) examination: n = 105). On two occasions, we assessed HCC, perceived stress, and different candidate variables that may affect HCC (e.g., socioeconomic status, meteorological data). Military training increased perceived stress from the first to the second examination, but did not affect HCC. In line with this, there was no correlation between HCC and perceived stress ratings. This could be interpreted as a missing influence of mainly physical stress (e.g. exercise) on HCC. In contrast, significant correlations were found between HCC and ambient temperature, humidity, and education. Future studies should control for meteorological data and educational status when examining HCC.
    Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 10/2014; 18(1):1-25. DOI:10.3109/10253890.2014.974028 · 2.72 Impact Factor
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