Haircortisol and its Association with Symptoms of Depression, Neuroticism and Perceived Stress in Adolescent Twins

Poster C70, Saturday, October 22, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm, Le Baron

Liz Rietschel1, Fabian Streit2, Gu Zhu3, Kerrie McAloney3, Clemens Kirschbaum4, Narelle K Hansell3, Margie Wright3,5, John J McGrath5, Stephanie Witt2, Marcella Rietschel2, Nicholas G Martin3; 1University Hospital of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bern, 2Department of Genetic Epidemiology in Psychiatry, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany, 3Genetic Epidemiology, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia, 4Department of Psychology, Technical University of Dresden, Germany, 5Queensland Brain Institute and Centre for Advanced Imaging, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Measuring cortisol in hair is a promising new method to assess long-term alterations of the biological stress-response-system, and hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) may be altered in psychiatric disorders and increased in subjects suffering from chronic stress. However the pattern of associations between HCC, chronic stress and mental health require clarification. Our exploratory study (1) assessed the association between HCC and perceived stress, symptoms of depression and neuroticism, and the trait extraversion (as a control variable) and (2) made use of the twin design to estimate the genetic and environmental covariance between the variables of interest. Hair samples from 109 (74 female) subjects (age range 12–21 years, mean 15.1) including 8 monozygotic (MZ) and 21 dizygotic (DZ) twin-pairs were analysed. Perceived stress was measured with the Perceived Stress Scale and/or the Daily Life and Stressors Scale, neuroticism and extraversion with the NEO-Five Factor Inventory or the Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire and depressive symptoms with the Somatic and Psychological Health Report. We found a modest positive association between HCC and perceived stress, symptoms of depression and neuroticism (r=0.22-0.33) but no correlation with extraversion (-0.06). A median-split revealed that the associations between HCC and risk factors were stronger (0.47-0.60) in those subjects with HCC >11.36 pg/mg. Furthermore, our results suggest that the genetic effects underlying HCC are largely shared with those that influence perceived stress, depressive symptoms and neuroticism. These results warrant replication in a bigger sample but raise the interesting question of the direction of causation between these variables.

Topic Area: Stress Responsivity

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