Everyday discrimination and diurnal cortisol during adolescence

Horm Behav. 2016 Apr;80:76-81. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2016.01.009. Epub 2016 Feb 4.


Purpose: To examine the associations of the frequency and type of everyday discrimination with diurnal cortisol and whether those associations depend upon adolescents' ethnicity and gender.

Methods: Adolescents (N=292, Mage=16. 39years, SD=0.74; 58% female) reported the frequency of perceived everyday discrimination and whether they attributed that discrimination to race, gender, age, or height and weight. Five saliva samples were collected per day across 3days and assayed for cortisol.

Results: Higher frequency of everyday discrimination was associated with greater total daily cortisol output (area under the curve; AUC), lower wake and bedtime levels of cortisol, and less of a decline in cortisol across the day. These associations generally did not depend upon ethnicity or gender and attributions for the discrimination were not as consequential as the actual frequency of any type of unfair treatment.

Conclusion: Everyday discrimination, regardless of its type, may contribute to heightened HPA activity among adolescents of different ethnic backgrounds and genders.

Keywords: Adolescents; Cortisol; Ethnicity; Everyday discrimination; HPA activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Male
  • Prejudice / psychology*
  • Saliva / chemistry


  • Hydrocortisone