Longitudinal Assessment of Hair Cortisol as a Predictor of Psychological Symptoms During COVID-19.

Longitudinal Assessment of Hair Cortisol as a Predictor of Psychological Symptoms During COVID-19.

Publication date: May 01, 2024

There is a lack of evidence regarding enduring psychoneuroendocrine changes following an initial traumatic event, particular in the presence of an ongoing stressor. The coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity to explore this matter. Consequently, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the impact of the ongoing pandemic (2021) on individuals, who experienced a first-time motor vehicle crash (MVC) at least 6 years earlier. To this end, we hypothesized that hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) following a first-time traumatic event positively predict symptoms of depression. We investigated N = 69 individuals (18 – 65 yrs. ), who were victims of a MVC during 2010 – 2014. Hair strands were collected 10 days (t) and 3 months after the MVC (t), as well during the pandemic in 2021 (t). To assess symptoms of depression, the participants filled out the Beck Depression Inventory at t – t and were additionally interviewed (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I) at t and t. Exclusion criteria conveyed a lifetime or acute mental disorder (incl. past trauma exposure). Elevated pre-pandemic HCC following adversity (i. e., MVC) significantly predicted symptoms of depression in adults during the coronavirus pandemic (BDI: cDF =. 44, p =. 010, R =. 20), even after controlling for confounders. HCC significantly decreased over time, while in average psychological symptoms remained consistent. Cortisol dysregulation in the past presents an enduring vulnerability to ongoing stress. In this regard, vulnerable groups may benefit from preventive measures. This finding validates the predictive power of HCC and extended past evidence in this regard, at the same time reinforcing the concept of the diathesis-stress model.

Concepts Keywords
Coronavirus Chronic stress
Covid Coronavirus
Psychoneuroendocrinology Hair cortisol
Traumatic Motor vehicle crash
Predictive value


Type Source Name
drug DRUGBANK Hydrocortisone
disease MESH COVID-19
disease VO LACK
disease VO time
disease MESH mental disorder

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