The CIRCORT database: Reference ranges and seasonal changes in diurnal salivary cortisol derived from a meta-dataset comprised of 15 field studies

Robert Miller, Tobias Stalder, Marc Jarczok, David M. Almeida, Ellena Badrick, Meike Bartels, Dorret I. Boomsma, Christopher L. Coe, Marieke C J Dekker, Bonny Donzella, Joachim E. Fischer, Megan R. Gunnar, Meena Kumari, Florian Lederbogen, Christine Power, Carol D. Ryff, S. V. Subramanian, Henning Tiemeier, Sarah E. Watamura, Clemens Kirschbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Diurnal salivary cortisol profiles are valuable indicators of adrenocortical functioning in epidemiological research and clinical practice. However, normative reference values derived from a large number of participants and across a wide age range are still missing. To fill this gap, data were compiled from 15 independently conducted field studies with a total of 104,623 salivary cortisol samples obtained from 18,698 unselected individuals (mean age: 48.3 years, age range: 0.5–98.5 years, 39% females). Besides providing a descriptive analysis of the complete dataset, we also performed mixed-effects growth curve modeling of diurnal salivary cortisol (i.e., 1–16 h after awakening). Cortisol decreased significantly across the day and was influenced by both, age and sex. Intriguingly, we also found a pronounced impact of sampling season with elevated diurnal cortisol in spring and decreased levels in autumn. However, the majority of variance was accounted for by between-participant and between-study variance components. Based on these analyses, reference ranges (LC/MS–MS calibrated) for cortisol concentrations in saliva were derived for different times across the day, with more specific reference ranges generated for males and females in different age categories. This integrative summary provides important reference values on salivary cortisol to aid basic scientists and clinicians in interpreting deviations from the normal diurnal cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-23
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The studies contributing to the CIRCORT dataset were funded by grant awards to the individual researchers. The analyses were supported by an unrestricted grant of the Medical Faculty of Mannheim, Heidelberg University, and from the Support-the-best grant to CK. The MIDUS project was supported by an award from the US National Institute on Aging to CR (P01 AG20166). Data collection for the 1958 cohort was funded by the Medical Research Council (grant G0000934 ). The authors are grateful to the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), UCL Institute of Education for the use of these data and to the UK Data Service for making them available. However, neither CLS nor the UK Data Service bear any responsibility for the analysis or interpretation of these data. This study was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust and University College London.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Circadian rhythm
  • Cortisol
  • Lifespan
  • Reference value
  • Saliva


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