Sequence and seasonal effects of salivary cortisol

Behav Med. 2000 Summer;26(2):67-73. doi: 10.1080/08964280009595753.


Assessments of cortisol levels in saliva have been widely used by both researchers and clinicians as an index of adrenal functioning. Quarterly measurements of morning and evening cortisol levels were determined in a longitudinal study of 147 participants (72 women and 75 men) followed for 1 year each. The analysis of salivary cortisol revealed no significant gender or age differences in the sample. There was a sequence effect in quarterly cortisol values with a progressive decrease in serial measurements, especially notable in the morning values; as well as a seasonal variation in cortisol levels with significantly higher levels found in winter and fall, compared with spring and summer. The findings in this study suggest that repeated saliva sampling and seasonal variation in cortisol levels may independently affect adrenal response and, therefore, need to be accounted for in longitudinal studies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Seasons*


  • Cholesterol
  • Hydrocortisone