Is hair the root to understanding our stress levels

May 4, 2016
Credit: Helga Weber (via Flickr)

Women with lower incomes have higher concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol in their hair, according to a new study from UCL.

The study also found that women whose income has gone up over the last 4 years have lower cortisol levels than those whose income went down, suggesting an association between long-term financial strain and .

Lead author, Bianca Serwinski (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health), explained: "Although previous studies have used measures in salvia, blood and urine to measure links between and income, we now know that the also emerges in the hair. By using hair to examine hormonal levels we can provide an estimate of cumulative cortisol secretion over a prolonged period of time. This allowed us to looks at changes in income and over time."

Researchers measured the concentration of cortisol in hair samples from younger and middle-aged women in London and Budapest, whose income fell into three different groups.

The results showed that cortisol concentration was 20% higher in the group of women who earned the least compared to women who earned the most. A negative association between hair cortisol and income changes over 4 years was also found after adjustment for age, BMI, smoking status, hair treatments such as dyeing and country.

The two samples in London and Budapest did not differ in their average hair cortisol levels despite the remarkable differences in overall income, since income levels are much lower in Hungary. The associations found in this study therefore point to a strong relative income effect but not an absolute effect.

The findings suggest that the relationship between lower socio-economic status and adverse health outcomes could partly be related to hormonal changes triggered by psychosocial stressors but further longitudinal research is needed to determine the link between hair and health outcomes.

Explore further: Hair samples may offer new insights into the relationship between asthma, cortisol, and complications in pregnancy

Related Stories

Hair samples may offer new insights into the relationship between asthma, cortisol, and complications in pregnancy

July 29, 2015
Hair samples can be used to measure the effects of asthma on the cortisol levels of women during pregnancy, according to research presented today at the 2015 AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Atlanta. This research ...

Obese children have higher stress hormone levels than normal-weight peers

December 18, 2013
Obese children naturally produce higher levels of a key stress hormone than their normal weight peers, according to new research accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Hair analysis reveals elevated stress hormone levels raise cardiovascular risk

April 17, 2013
–Hair strands contain valuable information about senior citizens' stress levels that can be used to determine an individual's cardiovascular disease risk, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine ...

Biological changes found in pregnant women with chronic stress

August 12, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing have identified underlying biological changes among minority and low-income pregnant women that occur in response to chronic stress. These ...

Stress hormones may increase cardiovascular risks for shift workers

October 3, 2011
A recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) found that shift work at a young age is associated with elevated long-term cortisol levels and increased ...

Saliva test for stress hormone levels may identify healthy older people with thinking problems

August 19, 2015
Testing the saliva of healthy older people for the level of the stress hormone cortisol may help identify individuals who should be screened for problems with thinking skills, according to a study published in the August ...

Recommended for you

Scientists researching drugs that could improve brain function in people with schizophrenia

October 12, 2017
Virginia Commonwealth University researchers are testing if drugs known as HDAC inhibitors improve cognition in patients with schizophrenia who have been treated with the antipsychotic drug clozapine.

Researchers find a fine timeline between delusion and reality

October 12, 2017
The line between reality and delusion may be just a matter of time, a new Yale study suggests.

Virtual humans work better than current ways to identify post-traumatic stress in soldiers

October 12, 2017
Soldiers are more likely to open up about post-traumatic stress when interviewed by a virtual interviewer than by taking a survey, finds a study published today in open-access journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI. A computer-generated ...

Women seen as younger when eyes, lips and eyebrows stand out

October 11, 2017
Aspects of facial contrast, a measure of how much facial features stand out in the face, decrease with age in women across a variety of ethnic groups, finds a study in open access journal Frontiers in Psychology. The study ...

Voice-only communication more accurate than visual cues for identifying others' feelings, study says

October 10, 2017
If you want to know how someone is feeling, it might be better to close your eyes and use your ears: People tend to read others' emotions more accurately when they listen and don't look, according to research published by ...

Experts call for more rigor, less hype, for mindfulness and meditation

October 10, 2017
Dependable scientific evidence has lagged worrisomely behind the rapid and widespread adoption of mindfulness and meditation for pursuing an array of mental and physical wellness goals, wrote a group of 15 experts in a new ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.