Associations between biological stress markers and depression are inconsistent across studies. We assessed whether inter-and intra-individual variability explain these inconsistencies.
Pair-matched depressed and non-depressed participants (N = 30) collected saliva thrice a day for 30 days, resulting in 90 measurements per individual. The relationships between measures of stress-system function and depression were examined at the group level by means of mixed model analyses, and at the individual level by means of pair-matched comparisons. The analyses were repeated after adjusting for time-varying lifestyle factors by means of time-series regression analyses.
Cortisol and a-amylase levels were higher, the a-amylase/cortisol ratio larger, and the daily cortisol slope steeper in the depressed compared to the non-depressed group. Adjusting for lifestyle factors and antidepressant use reduced the associations under study. In 40%-60% of the matched comparisons, depressed individuals had higher cortisol and a-amylase levels, a larger a-amylase/cortisol ratio, and a steeper daily slope than their non-depressed match, regardless of adjustment.
Our group-level findings were mostly in line with the literature but generalization to individuals appeared troublesome. Findings of studies on this topic should be interpreted with care, because in clinical practice the focus is on individuals instead of groups.
Replication data to: Cortisol and α-amylase secretion patterns between and within depressed and non-depressed individuals.
Booij, S. (Creator), Bos, E. (Creator), Bouwmans, M. (Creator), van Faassen, M. (Contributor), Kema, I. (Creator), Oldehinkel, T. (Contributor) & de Jonge, P. (Supervisor), University of Groningen, 6-jul-2015