TitleAssociations among daily stressors and salivary cortisol: findings from the National Study of Daily Experiences.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsStawski, RS, Cichy, KE, Piazza, JR, Almeida, DM
Date Published2013 Nov
KeywordsSymptom Assessment

While much research has focused on linking stressful experiences to emotional and biological reactions in laboratory settings, there is an emerging interest in extending these examinations to field studies of daily life. The current study examined day-to-day associations among naturally occurring daily stressors and salivary cortisol in a national sample of adults from the second wave of the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE). A sample of 1694 adults (age=57, range=33-84; 44% male) completed telephone interviews detailing their stressors and emotions on eight consecutive evenings. Participants also provided saliva samples upon waking, 30min post-waking, before lunch and before bed, on four consecutive interview days resulting in 5995 days of interview/cortisol data. Analyses revealed three main findings. First, cortisol AUC was significantly higher on stressor days compared to stressor-free days, particularly for arguments and overloads at home, suggesting that daily stressors are associated with increased cortisol output, but that not all daily stressors have such an influence. Second, individuals reporting a greater frequency of stressor days also exhibited a steeper diurnal cortisol slope. Finally, daily stressor-cortisol associations were unaltered after adjustment for daily negative affect and physical symptoms. Our discussion focuses on the influence of naturally occurring daily stressors on daily cortisol and the role of daily diary approaches for studying healthy cortisol responses to psychosocial stressors outside of traditional laboratory settings.