Studies regarding the interrelation of perceived and physiological stress indices have shown diverging results. Using a population sample of adolescents (N = 715, 50.9% girls, mean age 16.11 years, SD = 0.59), we tested three hypotheses: (1) perceived responses during social stress covary with concurrent physiological stress responses; (2) high pre-test levels of perceived stress predict large physiological responses; and (3) large physiological responses to social stress predict low post-test perceived stress levels. Perceived arousal, unpleasantness, and dominance were related to heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and cortisol responses to a laboratory social stress test. Although effect sizes were small, the results suggest covariation of perceived stress and concurrent physiological stress responses in both the ANS and the HPA axis, as well as inverse associations between heart rate responsiveness and the subsequent appraisal of stress.
Previously, sequence variation in the glucocorticoid (GR) and mineralocorticoid (MR) receptor genes (NR3C1 and NR3C2, respectively) have been found to be associated with physiological stress responses to social stress tests in small samples of adult men and oral contraceptives (OC) using women. Associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the GR (23EK-rs6190, 9beta-rs6198, BclI - rs4142324) and the MR gene (I180V-rs5522 and -2G/C (rs2070951) with cortisol and heart rate responses to a performance-related social stress task (public speaking and mental arithmetic) were examined in a large sample (n = 553) of adolescents (15-17 yrs). To make comparisons with previous findings, associations were tested in boys (n = 277, free-cycling (FC) girls (n = 183) and OC users (n = 94). None of the previously reported associations in adults could be replicated in this large adolescent sample. Explanations for non-replication are discussed.
Depression runs in families and is considered a stress-related disorder. Familial risk for depression may be transmitted via deregulated psychophysiological stress responses from parent to child. In this study, we examined the association between self-assessed lifetime parental depressive problems (PDP) and adolescent offspring’ cortisol responses to a social stress test. Data were collected as part of the third assessment wave of TRAILS (TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey), a large prospective population study of Dutch adolescents. Data of 330 adolescents (mean age 16.04; 40.9% girls) who participated in a laboratory session, including a standardized performance-related social stress task (public speaking and mental arithmetic) were examined. Four saliva cortisol samples were collected before, during and after the social stress task which were analyzed with repeated measures Analysis of Variance. Lifetime parental depressive problems were assessed by self-reports from both biological parents. PDP was associated with daughter’ cortisol responses (F(3,133) = 3.90, p = .02), but no association was found in sons (F(3,193) = 0.27, p = .78). Girls whose parents ever experienced depressive symptoms displayed a blunted cortisol response to the standardized social stress test, while girls whose parents never had such problems displayed the characteristic curvilinear response pattern. This effect was not mediated by offspring stress history (age 0 to 16). Analyses were corrected for smoking behaviour and adolescent depressed mood. The fact that PDP were measured by self-report questionnaires and did not reflect clinical DSM-IV diagnosis could be considered a limitation of the study.
The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether a length polymorphism in the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4) was associated with approach related traits in adolescents. Data were used from TRAILS (TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey), a population based cohort of Dutch adolescents. Sensation seeking, assessed with personality questionnaires from the participants themselves and their biological father and mother (n = 1282) was not associated with DRD4 genotype. Gambling performance (n = 591) and startle reactivity (n = 432) were not associated with DRD4 genotype either. Explanations for the dissociation might be sought in differences in development of the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex, both with high dopamine receptor D4 densities and both involved in approach related behaviours.