Baseline cortisol measures and developmental pathways of anxiety in early adolescence
Objective: This study investigated whether baseline cortisol measures predicted future anxiety, and compared cortisol values of groups with different developmental pathways of anxiety. Method: Cortisol levels were assessed in 1768 individuals (10-12 years). Anxiety levels were assessed at the same age and 2 years later. Results: Cortisol measures did not predict future anxiety levels. Individuals with persistent anxiety problems did not show higher morning cortisol levels than those with persistently low, decreasing, or increasing anxiety levels. Instead, individuals with persistently high anxiety levels showed significantly lower evening cortisol levels than all other individuals. Further, participants with increasing anxiety levels showed higher morning cortisol levels (area under the curve; AUC) than individuals with persistently low anxiety levels. Conclusion: The extent to which the HPA-axis - by itself - plays a role in the aetiology of anxiety is questionable. Interactions of the HPA-axis with other biological or environmental factors may be more important.