Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Title: Cortisol reactivity and suicidal behavior: investigating the role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis responses to stress in suicide attempters and ideators
Author(s): O'Connor, Daryl B
Green, Jessica A
Ferguson, Eamonn
O'Carroll, Ronan
O'Connor, Rory C
Contact Email:
Keywords: cortisol reactivity
chronic stress
HPA axis
allostatic load
Issue Date: Jan-2017
Date Deposited: 26-Oct-2016
Citation: O'Connor DB, Green JA, Ferguson E, O'Carroll R & O'Connor RC (2017) Cortisol reactivity and suicidal behavior: investigating the role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis responses to stress in suicide attempters and ideators. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 75, pp. 183-191.
Abstract: Every 40 seconds a person dies by suicide somewhere in the world. The causes of suicidal behavior are not fully understood. Dysregulated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity, as measured by cortisol levels, is one potential risk factor. The current study aimed to investigate whether cortisol reactivity to a laboratory stress task differentiated individuals who had previously made a suicide attempt from those who had thought about suicide (suicide ideators) and control participants. One hundred and sixty participants were recruited to a previous attempt, a suicidal ideation or a control group. Participants completed background questionnaires before completing the Maastricht Acute Stress Test (MAST). Cortisol levels were assessed throughout the stress task. Measures of suicide behavior were measured at baseline, 1 month and 6 month follow-up. Participants who had made a previous suicide attempt exhibited significantly lower aggregate cortisol levels during the MAST compared to participants in the control group; suicide ideators were intermediate to both groups. This effect, however, was driven by participants who made an attempt within the past year, and to some degree by those with a family history of attempt. Participants who had made a suicide attempt and had a family history of suicide exhibited the lowest levels of cortisol in response to stress. Finally, lower levels of cortisol in response to the MAST were associated with higher levels of suicidal ideation at 1-month follow-up in the suicide attempter group. These results are consistent with other findings indicating that blunted HPA axis activity is associated with some forms of suicidal behavior. The challenge for researchers is to elucidate the precise causal mechanisms linking stress, cortisol and suicide risk.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.10.019
Rights: This item has been embargoed for a period. During the embargo please use the Request a Copy feature at the foot of the Repository record to request a copy directly from the author. You can only request a copy if you wish to use this work for your own research or private study.

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
O'Connor-etal-Pschoneuroendinocrinology-2016.pdfFulltext - Accepted Version653.65 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

This item is protected by original copyright

Items in the Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

The metadata of the records in the Repository are available under the CC0 public domain dedication: No Rights Reserved

If you believe that any material held in STORRE infringes copyright, please contact providing details and we will remove the Work from public display in STORRE and investigate your claim.