According to the findings of a recent study conducted at Trinity, having greater levels of the stress hormone cortisol could raise the likelihood of getting depression.
Higher cortisol levels in older persons, as determined from hair samples obtained in 2014, were related with a higher chance of depression throughout the ﬁrst months of the COVID-19 pandemic, six years later, according to scientists from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging.
It is believed that the level of cortisol that may be tested in hair reflects not just prior stress exposure but also other biological and psychological aspects that have not been completely defined. The results indicate that cortisol, when measured in this manner, may also be able to help predict who is susceptible to depression in the coming years, following a period of increased stress. Although higher levels are also often encountered in people who are presently depressed, the results indicate that this may also be the case.
The findings of the research that was conducted on persons aged 60 and over during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic indicated that there was no difference between the male and female participants in terms of their outcomes.
Higher hair cortisol, assessed 6 years previously, predicted clinically significant depressive symptoms among middle-aged and older adults during (but not before) the pandemic. Findings suggest a biological phenotype which denotes increased susceptibility to the negative impact of environmental stress on psychological health.
The results are essential for identifying who may be very much at risk and thinking about potential preventative strategies for the future given the harmful effect that the virus and lockdowns have had on mental health.
In the context of population research, the measurement of cortisol by the use of hair samples is a fairly new method. Additionally, this is the first time that anything of this kind has been implemented on such a massive scale in Ireland. This makes it much simpler for researchers to analyze the effects of hormonal stress, which formerly required collecting five samples of blood or saliva in a single day. Stress is a significant factor in not just these aging processes but also in our own biological aging, and cortisol has been related to both rapid and slow aging processes.