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Cortisol Level Shows Effect of Stress on Low-Income Youth

Study finds low socioeconomic status associated with increase in stress hormone levels

FRIDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Children from low socioeconomic status families have a steeper trajectory of cortisol secretion than their counterparts from more advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, which may leave them vulnerable to health problems when they get older, according to a study in the January issue of Psychological Science.

Edith Chen, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues conducted a study of 50 healthy children using saliva samples collected four times a day for two days every six months over two years to measure daily cortisol output.

Compared with their higher socioeconomic status counterparts, children from low socioeconomic status groups had larger two-year increases in daily cortisol output, in part mediated by family chaos and the children's perceptions of threat, the researchers found.

"Health disparities are a pressing reality of our society. To begin to attempt to reduce socioeconomic status disparities in health, we need to better understand the reasons why they exist. The present study provides some of the first longitudinal evidence demonstrating that low socioeconomic status is able to alter biological profiles in a persistent fashion," the authors write. "These findings may help explain, and provide some first steps toward ameliorating, low-socioeconomic status children's vulnerability to health problems later in life."

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