Inverse association between stress induced cortisol elevations and negative emotional reactivity to stress in humans

Stress. 2023 Jan;26(1):2174780. doi: 10.1080/10253890.2023.2174780.


Greater cortisol reactivity to stress is often assumed to lead to heightened negative affective reactivity to stress. Conversely, a growing body of evidence demonstrates mood-protective effects of cortisol elevations in the context of acute stress. We administered a laboratory-based stressor, the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), and measured cortisol and emotional reactivity in 68 adults (48 women) between the ages of 25 and 65. In accordance with our pre-registered hypothesis ( and prior research, negative affective reactivity was inversely related to cortisol reactivity assessed immediately after the stressor. We found that greater cortisol response to acute stress is associated with smaller increases in negative affect, consistent with mood-protective effects of cortisol elevations in response to acute stress.

Keywords: Cortisol; TSST; emotion; glucocorticoids; negative affect; stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Tests
  • Saliva
  • Stress, Psychological* / psychology


  • Hydrocortisone