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Children of Trauma Survivors Display Lower Cortisol Levels

May be associated with risk of developing post-traumatic stress

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Holocaust survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder tend to have children with lower cortisol levels than the children of Holocaust survivors without post-traumatic stress disorder or those with parents who have not experienced trauma, according to a study in the September issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. The finding may shed light on why such children are at higher risk of PTSD themselves.

Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., from the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y., and colleagues compared basal cortisol secretion in 23 children of Holocaust survivors with parental PTSD, 10 children of Holocaust survivors without PTSD, and 16 children whose parents had not experienced trauma.

The researchers found that children of Holocaust survivors with PTSD had lower mean cortisol levels than other children, which appeared to be associated with maternal PTSD.

"Low cortisol levels and other chronobiological alterations in offspring are associated with the risk factor of maternal PTSD, raising the possibility that these alterations are acquired via glucocorticoid programming either from in utero exposures or in response to maternal behaviors early in life," Yehuda and colleagues conclude.

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