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Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Effects of childhood trauma on cortisol levels in suicide attempters and ideators
Author(s): O'Connor, Daryl B
Green, Jessica A
Ferguson, Eamonn
O'Carroll, Ronan
O'Connor, Rory C
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Keywords: chronic stress
HPA axis
allostatic load
Issue Date: Feb-2018
Date Deposited: 9-Nov-2017
Citation: O'Connor DB, Green JA, Ferguson E, O'Carroll R & O'Connor RC (2018) Effects of childhood trauma on cortisol levels in suicide attempters and ideators. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 88, pp. 9-16.
Abstract: Objectives: Suicide is a global health issue. Dysregulated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity, as measured by cortisol levels, has been identified as one potential risk factor for suicide. Recent evidence has indicated that blunted cortisol reactivity to stress is associated with suicidal behavior. The current study investigated whether childhood trauma was associated with blunted cortisol reactivity to a laboratory stressor and resting cortisol levels in suicide attempters and ideators.  Methods: 160 participants were recruited and grouped according to history of previous suicidal attempt, suicidal ideation or as control participants. Participants completed background questionnaires, including the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, before completing a laboratory stress task. Cortisol levels were assessed at rest and during the stress task.  Results: The highest levels of childhood trauma were reported in those who had attempted suicide (78.7%), followed by those who thought about suicide (37.7%) and then those with no suicidal history (17.8%). Moreover, regression analyses showed that childhood trauma was a significant predictor of blunted cortisol reactivity to stress and resting cortisol levels, such that higher levels of trauma were associated with lower cortisol levels in those with a suicidal history. Family history of suicide did not interact with the effects of childhood trauma on cortisol levels.  Conclusions: These results indicate that childhood trauma is associated with blunted HPA axis activity in vulnerable populations. The challenge for researchers is to elucidate the precise causal mechanisms linking trauma, cortisol and suicide risk and to investigate whether the effects of childhood trauma on cortisol levels are amendable to psychological intervention.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.11.004
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. Accepted refereed manuscript of: O'Connor DB, Green JA, Ferguson E, O'Carroll R & O'Connor RC (2018) Effects of childhood trauma on cortisol levels in suicide attempters and ideators, Psychoneuroendocrinology, 88, pp. 9-16. DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.11.004 © 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
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