Is economic hardship associated with young children's cortisol levels?

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3 Scopus citations


Economic hardship during childhood has been linked to poor physical and mental health. This study examines cross-sectional and longitudinal associations of a summed economic hardship score of poverty, food insecurity, and financial hardship with hair cortisol in young children. Data from 24-month (Time 1, mean age 5 years) and 36-month (Time 2, mean age 6 years) follow-up from the NET-Works obesity prevention trial (NET-Works, NCT0166891) were used. Hair cortisol measures obtained at each time point were log-transformed and regressed on economic hardship at Time 1 and a cumulative economic hardship from Time 1 to Time 2, using generalized linear regressions. All models were adjusted for child age, sex, race/ethnicity, and intervention (prevention vs. control) arm. The final analytic sample sizes ranged from 248 to 287. Longitudinal analyses indicated that for every 1-unit higher economic hardship score at Time 1, hair cortisol at Time 2 follow-up was on average 0.07 log-picograms per milligram (pg/mg) higher (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.01, 0.13). For every 1-unit increase in the cumulative economic hardship score between Time 1 and 2, there was a 0.04 log-pg/mg (95% CI: 0.00, 0.07) average higher level of hair cortisol at Time 2 follow-up. Results show suggestive but limited evidence for an association between economic hardship and cortisol in young children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22390
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
These data were collected through grants U01HD068990 and R01HD090059. This analysis was supported by the Minnesota Population Center (P2C HD041023) and the Interdisciplinary Population Health Science Training Program (T32HD095134). All are funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Developmental Psychobiology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • economic hardship
  • financial hardship
  • food insecurity
  • hair cortisol
  • poverty

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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