Salivary sex hormone measurement in a national, population-based study of older adults

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009 Nov;64 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):i94-105. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbn028. Epub 2009 Feb 9.


Objectives: To describe the methods used for, correlates of cooperation with, and validity of in-home salivary specimens collected from older adults.

Methods: Salivary specimens were collected between 2005 and 2006 during in-home interviews with a probability sample of 3,005 U.S. men and women, ages 57-85 years. Sex hormone levels were assessed by enzyme-linked immunoassay conducted at Salimetrics, LLC (State College, PA). Mean salivary sex hormone concentrations were compared by gender and in relation to medication use and health conditions.

Results: Self-collected saliva specimens were provided by 2,722 (90.6%) individuals; 95.8% of these were adequate for analysis. Black participants were significantly less likely than individuals of other racial/ethnic groups to provide a salivary specimen; age, gender, education, and self-rated health were not associated with participation. Mean testosterone levels were higher in men compared with women, and estradiol levels were higher in women using estrogens. Salivary hormone measurements obtained in the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) and other studies are of similar magnitude.

Conclusion: NSHAP is the first large, population-based study of older adults to measure salivary estradiol, progesterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and, in women, testosterone. These data demonstrate a high cooperation rate with in-home salivary specimen collection from older adults and good validity of sex hormone measurements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Androgens / administration & dosage
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Estradiol / blood*
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Ovariectomy
  • Reference Values
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • United States


  • Androgens
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol