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Positive and negative social support and HPA-axis hyperactivity: Evidence from glucocorticoids in human hair

Iob, E; Kirschbaum, C; Steptoe, A; (2018) Positive and negative social support and HPA-axis hyperactivity: Evidence from glucocorticoids in human hair. Psychoneuroendocrinology , 96 pp. 100-108. 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.06.008. Green open access

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: While positive social support is associated with lower prevalence of disease and better treatment outcomes, negative social relationships can instead have unfavourable consequences for several physical and mental health conditions. However, the specific mechanisms by which this nexus might operate remain poorly understood. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity owing to psychosocial stress has been proposed as a potential pathway underlying the link between social support and health. Hair glucocorticoids such as cortisol and cortisone are emerging as promising biomarkers of long-term retrospective HPA activation. Therefore, the aim of this investigation was to examine the effects of positive and negative experiences of social support within key relationships (i.e. spouse/partner, children, other family members, and friends) on cortisol and cortisone. METHODS: These associations were tested in a sample of 2520 older adults (mean age 68.1) from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Hair samples were collected in wave 6 (2012/13). To understand the impact of cumulative exposure to poor social support, the analysis used self-reported data from waves 4 (2008/09) and 6. Covariates included demographic, socioeconomic, lifestyle, and hair characteristics. RESULTS: In cross sectional analyses, lower positive support from all sources and specifically from children were associated with higher cortisol. Additionally, lower positive support from children was positively associated with cortisone. Similarly, higher overall negative support was related to higher cortisol, and greater negative support from children was also positively associated with cortisone. In longitudinal analyses, there was evidence for positive associations between hair glucocorticoids and cumulative exposure to poorer social support. CONCLUSIONS: Experiences of low positive and high negative social support, particularly from children, were both related to higher hair glucocorticoids. Hence, social relationships of poorer quality in later life may have adverse effects on the HPA axis thereby increasing the individual's susceptibility to poor health.

Type: Article
Title: Positive and negative social support and HPA-axis hyperactivity: Evidence from glucocorticoids in human hair
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.06.008
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.06.008
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Cortisone, HPA axis, Hair cortisol, Social support, Stress
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10056029
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