Background: Although the link between psychological distress and altered cortisol level has been already shown; very limited information exists about this association among Black youth.
Objectives: We tested sex differences in predictive role of symptoms of anxiety during adolescence on annual decline in morning salivary cortisol levels in early adulthood among Black youth.
Patients and Methods: Data came from wave 1 (year 1994), wave 6 (year 2000), and wave 7 (year 2001) of the Flint adolescent study. In this study 176 Black youth (85 males and 91 females) were followed for 7 years from mean age of 15 at baseline to 22 at the end of follow up. Linear regression was used for data analysis with change in salivary cortisol from 2000 to 2001 as the dependent variable, symptoms of anxiety, at 1994 as independent variable, age, number of employed parents, depressive symptoms and alcohol use at 1994 as controls, and sex as the moderator.
Results: Higher level of anxiety symptoms at 1994 was predictive of a higher decline in morning salivary cortisol from 2000 to 2001 for all youths, while the effects of baseline socio-economics, depressive symptoms, and alcohol use were controlled. Among female participants, anxiety symptoms at 1994 were predictive of a greater decline in morning salivary cortisol level from 2000 to 2001. The association was not found among males.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest sex differences in the predictive role of anxiety symptoms during adolescence on the annual decline in cortisol level during early adulthood. While most research on this topic is among White middle class individuals, our findings shed more light on the longitudinal links between psychological distress and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function among Black youth.