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Young, E.A., R. Tolman, K. Witkowski, and George A. Kaplan. 2004. "Salivary Cortisol and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in a Low-Income Community Sample of Women." Biological Psychiatry, 55(6): 621-626.
Background. Studies of male combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder have demonstrated a profile of low cortisol. Studies with women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have focused on childhood sexual abuse and holocaust survivors, both of whom experienced trauma during development, which could be different than adult trauma exposure. Methods: Using an epidemiologic sample of low-income women from an urban area in Michigan, we conducted structured psychiatric interviews and saliva cortisol collection on a subsample of women with exposure to trauma but never PTSD (n = 72), recent PTSD (n = 29), and past PTSD (n = 70). Saliva cortisol was collected at awakening, 30 minutes later, at bedtime, and during a clinic visit. Results: Recent trauma exposure but not past trauma exposure led to an increase in saliva cortisol. Neither recent PTSD nor past PTSD resulted in any saliva cortisol changes compared with the trauma exposed, never PTSD group. Recent major depression (past 12 months) demonstrated a weak effect (p =.08) on bedtime saliva cortisol. Conclusions: While recent trauma exposure can increase saliva cortisol, neither recent nor past PTSD affected saliva cortisol in our community sample of women. Our data do not support saliva cortisol changes associated with PTSD.