Hair cortisol, allostatic load, and depressive symptoms in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Berger, Maximus, Taylor, Sean, Harriss, Linton, Campbell, Sandra, Thompson, Fintan, Jones, Samuel, Sushames, Ashleigh, Amminger, G. Paul, Sarnyai, Zoltan, and McDermott, Robyn (2019) Hair cortisol, allostatic load, and depressive symptoms in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Stress, 22 (3). pp. 312-320.

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Chronic stress and adversity are associated with poor mental health and are thought to contribute to the existing mental health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. Hair cortisol and allostatic load (AL) are indices of sustained stress and may be mediators of the effects of stress on health. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between hair cortisol, AL, and depressive symptoms. This cross-sectional study comprised 329 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents and adults recruited at two health screening programs operating in three communities in north Queensland. We measured hair cortisol and calculated an AL index from 10 biomarkers. We assessed depressive symptoms with a version of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 adapted for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (aPHQ-9). We found differences in cortisol and AL between the screening programs and communities, which were not explained by depressive symptoms. Overall aPHQ-9 scores were unrelated to hair cortisol (p = .25 and p = .94) and AL (p = .30 and p = .88) when age, gender and smoking were taken into account. However, anhedonia (p = .007) and insomnia (p = .006) sub-scores were each significantly associated with AL in one study site. Our present data did not demonstrate overall associations of stress biomarkers and multisystem dysregulation with depressive symptoms, which suggests that the relationship between cumulative stress and depression may be better explained by other factors in this population. The specific association between anhedonia and insomnia with AL indicates that chronic multisystem dysregulation plays a role in these features of depression in this population.

Item ID: 57135
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1607-8888
Keywords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; depression; allostatic load; hair cortisol; screening; PHQ-9
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Copyright Information: Copyright © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 6 of the following PhD thesis: Berger, Maximus (2018) Biological endophenotypes of prodromal psychosis and depression. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: NHMRC, Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention
Projects and Grants: NHMRC Grant GNT0631947
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2019 21:58
FoR Codes: 32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3209 Neurosciences > 320903 Central nervous system @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9203 Indigenous Health > 920301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - Determinants of Health @ 100%
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