Daily hassles, loneliness, and diurnal salivary cortisol in emerging adults

Julian C.L. Lai, Daryl Y.H. Lee, Monique O.Y. Leung, Yun Wah Lam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This study used an intensive protocol to examine the effects of daily hassles and loneliness on diurnal salivary cortisol levels. Fifty Chinese undergraduates (28 females) provided six saliva samples each day for two consecutive days (at 0, 0.5, 3, 6, and 12 h after waking and at bedtime) and completed a questionnaire that included scales to measure daily hassles experienced over the previous month, trait loneliness, and depression. Cortisol data were aggregated over two days and used in subsequent analyses, focusing on the cortisol awakening response, diurnal slope, and overall cortisol output operationalized as the area under the curve with reference to the ground (AUCG). Multiple regression analysis showed that an increase in loneliness had a significant association with an increase in the AUCG and with a steeper diurnal slope. Loneliness also showed a significant interaction with daily hassles in that the positive association between daily hassles and AUCG was accentuated in the participants who reported a greater degree of loneliness. Our findings demonstrate for the first time the importance of trait loneliness in modulating the association between daily hassles and diurnal cortisol levels, which has significant clinical implications. Interventions to reduce loneliness should help college students to better cope with daily stressors. Increased attention should also be paid to the health implications of an elevated cortisol level in this relatively young and healthy population.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104558
Number of pages8
JournalHormones and Behavior
Early online date20 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

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