Facebook behaviors associated with diurnal cortisol in adolescents: Is befriending stressful?

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016 Jan;63:238-46. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.10.005. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


Facebook(©) is changing the way people interact and socialize. Despite great interest in psychology and sociology, little is known about Facebook behaviors in relation to physiological markers of stress. Given that the brain undergoes important development during adolescence and that glucocorticoids--a major class of stress hormones-are known to modulate its development, it is important to study psychosocial factors that may influence secretion of stress hormones during adolescence. The goal of the present study was to explore the associations between Facebook behaviors (use frequency, network size, self-presentation and peer-interaction) and basal levels of cortisol among adolescent boys and girls. Eighty-eight adolescents (41 boys, 47 girls) aged between 12 and 17 (14.5 ± 1.8) were recruited. Participants provided four cortisol samples per day for two non-consecutive weekdays. Facebook behaviors were assessed in accordance with the existing literature. Well-validated measures of perceived stress, perceived social support, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms were also included. A hierarchical regression showed that after controlling for sex, age, time of awakening, perceived stress, and perceived social support, cortisol systemic output (area under the curve with respect to ground) was positively associated with the number of Facebook friends and negatively associated with Facebook peer-interaction. No associations were found among depressive symptoms, self-esteem, and cortisol. These results provide preliminary evidence that Facebook behaviors are associated with diurnal cortisol concentrations in adolescents.

Keywords: Adolescents; Cortisol; Depression; Facebook; Sex differences; Stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Media*
  • Social Skills*
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*


  • Hydrocortisone