Psychological, cardiovascular, and metabolic correlates of individual differences in cortisol stress recovery in young men

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2001 May;26(4):375-91. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4530(00)00061-5.


The relationship of free salivary cortisol stress recovery and basal cortisol with psychological, cardiovascular and metabolic factors was investigated in 82 healthy young men. Blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol and mood were assessed during a single laboratory session involving mental arithmetic and speech tasks, and lipid profiles were analysed from a fasting blood sample. Participants were divided into high (n=31) and low (n=51) cortisol stress recovery groups on the basis of the magnitude of changes between the peak cortisol responses to tasks and the lowest levels recorded at the end of a 30 min post-stress rest period. The high recovery group showed consistent increases in cortisol following each of the tasks, while the low recovery group showed little change across the session. Cortisol levels in the two groups did not differ at the end of the post-stress recovery period. The groups were indistinguishable in age, body mass index, smoking and alcohol consumption, and did not differ in psychological characteristics including anxiety, depression and perceived social support. However, the high stress recovery group had elevated low density lipoprotein cholesterol and total cholesterol/high density lipoprotein ratios, suggesting raised cardiovascular disease risk. The high stress recovery group also reported greater psychological activation during tasks, and greater recent minor life stress, than did the low recovery group. There was no association between rate of cortisol recovery and cardiovascular responses to tasks. But resting cortisol was related to blood pressure stress reactivity, suggesting that cortisol played a permissive role in augmenting sympathetically-driven cardiovascular responses. The results suggest that the rate of cortisol stress recovery is associated with variations in metabolic risk, and with differences in psychological state but not trait characteristics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Anxiety
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology*
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol
  • Hydrocortisone