Cortisol awakening response, internalizing symptoms, and life satisfaction in emerging adults

Li Shen Chong, Michelle Thai, Kathryn R. Cullen, Kelvin O. Lim, Bonnie Klimes-Dougan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The cortisol awakening response (CAR) has been associated with depression and a broader range of internalizing problems. Emerging adulthood is characterized by numerous stressful transitional life events. Furthermore, the functioning of the neurobiological stress system changes across development. These considerations underscore the importance of evaluating the physiological stress system in emerging adults in identifying the extent to which cortisol levels vary with risk and protective factors for mental health. The present study evaluated the association between internalizing symptoms and perceived life satisfaction with CAR in 32 young adults. Three saliva samples were collected to measure cortisol levels upon awakening and participants completed the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) and Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS). Results show a significant positive correlation between area under the curve for CAR with internalizing symptoms (DASS total) and the DASS-depression subscale, but not with life satisfaction. Study limitations, implications, and future directions for these finding were discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2501
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Cortisol
  • Cortisol awakening response (CAR)
  • Emerging adults
  • Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA)
  • Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis
  • Life satisfaction
  • Risk


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