OBJECTIVES: Workplace-based selective prevention of mental health problems currently relies on subjective evaluation of stress complaints. Hair cortisol captures chronic stress responses and could be a promising biomarker for the early identification of mental health problems. The objective was to provide an overview of the state-of-the-art knowledge on the practical value of hair cortisol in the occupational setting. METHODS: We performed a scoping review of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies in PubMed, Embase, and PsycINFO up to November 2019 assessing the relations of hair cortisol with work-related stressors, perceived stress, and mental health outcomes in healthy workers. RESULTS: We found five longitudinal studies, of which two observed an increase in work-related stressors to be associated with higher hair cortisol, one found a relation with lower hair cortisol and one did not find a relationship. Findings of cross-sectional studies were also mixed. The one available longitudinal study regarding mental health showed that hair cortisol was not related to depressive symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: Hair cortisol measurement within occupational health research is still in its early stage and more longitudinal studies are urgently needed to clarify its relationship with work-related stressors and perceived stress before hair cortisol can be used to identify workers at risk for mental health problems.

disease prevention, glucocorticoids, mental stress, work related
dx.doi.org/10.1002/1348-9585.12189, hdl.handle.net/1765/134132
Journal of Occupational Health
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Schaafsma, F.G. (Frederieke G.), Hulsegge, G. (Gerben), de Jong, M.A. (Merel A.), Overvliet, J. (Joyce), van Rossum, E.F.C, & Nieuwenhuijsen, K. (2021). The potential of using hair cortisol to measure chronic stress in occupational healthcare; a scoping review. Journal of Occupational Health (Vol. 63). doi:10.1002/1348-9585.12189