Diurnal cortisol profiles, inflammation, and functional limitations in aging: Findings from the MIDUS study

Jennifer R. Piazza, Natalia O. Dmitrieva, Susan T. Charles, David M. Almeida, Gabriel A. Orona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: The current study examined the association between diurnal cortisol profiles, inflammation, and functional limitations, among adults ranging in age from 34-84 years. Method: Participants (N = 799) completed Waves 2 (between 2004 and 2006) and 3 (between 2014 and 2016) of the Midlife Development in the United States Survey. At Wave 2, participants provided saliva samples across 4 consecutive days, from which cortisol was assayed. Previously validated diurnal cortisol profiles (i.e., normative, flattened, or elevated) were examined in relation to concurrent inflammation risk burden and to predict long-term changes in functional limitations. Results: Compared with participants with normative profiles across all interview days, participants with dysregulated profiles across all interview days (i.e., all days elevated, flattened, or a combination of elevated and flattened) showed greater concurrent inflammation risk burden and more functional limitations at follow-up. Regions of significance testing indicated that the association was significant beginning at age 60 for inflammation risk burden and beginning at age 66 for functional limitations. Variable profiles (i.e., a mix of normative and flattened and/or elevated across the four days of assessment) were not significantly associated with these health indices. Conclusions: Findings, consistent with the theoretical model of Strength and Vulnerability Integration, illustrate the importance of considering age when examining cortisol and its association with other health indices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-849
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Age
  • Cortisol
  • Functional limitations
  • HPA-axis
  • Inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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