Loneliness and Diurnal Salivary Cortisol in Chinese Undergraduates

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)Posterpeer-review

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Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Conference

TitleInternational Convention of Psychological Science ICPS 2017
LocationAustria
CityVienna
Period23 - 25 March 2017

Abstract

This study examined the effect of trait loneliness on diurnal rhythms of salivary cortisol in 39 Chinese undergraduates in Hong Kong. Findings show that lonely students exhibited higher levels of diurnal cortisol than their non-lonely peers, and this effect was accentuated in participants experiencing a high level of daily stress.
Summary
This study is part of a larger project examining the physiological correlates of psychological resilience and related constructs in Chinese undergraduates in Hong Kong. In particular, we are interested in the effect of trait loneliness on diurnal rhythms of salivary cortisol in college students because loneliness has emerged as an important determinant of the physiology of stress processes and mental health in recent research. Although the relationship between loneliness and salivary cortisol has been studied previously, most of these studies were with elderly or non-adolescent age groups. Moreover, findings of the handful of studies examining the relationship in adolescents or young adults are far from consistent. In response to this gap, we designed the present study to re-examine the relationship between loneliness and salivary cortisol in college students in Hong Kong. We hypothesized that loneliness is associated with higher levels of diurnal cortisol and this relationship is modulated by the level of daily stress experienced by participants.
Participants in the study (N = 39, 31 females) were all ethnic Chinese studying at a university in Hong Kong. Ages of participants ranged from 20 yrs. to 35 yrs. (Mean = 21.74 yrs.), and the majority of them (56%) were in their 2nd year of study. They were recruited from students in a class of introductory psychology to take part in the study voluntarily. Course credits and cinema vouchers were given to participants in return for their participation. Participants were asked to collect by themselves 6 saliva samples each day for 3 weekdays at immediately, 0.5, 3, 6, 12 hours after waking, and at bedtime. The timing of saliva collection was monitored using electronic devices (MEMS TrackCaps, WestRock). In addition, participants also filled out a questionnaire consisting of scales measuring constructs such as loneliness, daily hassles, optimism, and depression among others. Data were analyzed using multilevel modelling with day and times of saliva collection being treated as repeated measures, and gender and year of study as covariates. Cortisol concentrations were analyzed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Cortisol data were winsorized and normalized using log transformation for subsequent analyses. Specifically, the following effects were tested: (1) linear and quadratic growth of salivary cortisol, (2) the effect of daily hassles on diurnal cortisol levels, (3) the effect of loneliness on diurnal cortisol levels, and (4) the interaction between daily hassles and loneliness on diurnal cortisol levels. Main findings are summarized in the following.
(1) There was a significant decline in cortisol level from immediately after waking to bedtime and this decline decelerated or slowed down over time.
(2) No significant effect of daily hassles on diurnal cortisol levels.
(3) Higher loneliness was associated with a higher level of diurnal cortisol.
(4) The effect of loneliness on diurnal cortisol was accentuated in participants experiencing a high level of daily stress.
(5) Gender and year of study had no effect on diurnal cortisol.
(6) The aforementioned significant effects remained significant after the effects of optimism and depression had been controlled.

Citation Format(s)

Loneliness and Diurnal Salivary Cortisol in Chinese Undergraduates. / LAI, Chuk Ling Julian; LEUNG, On Yee Monique; LAM, Yun Wah; BERNING, Karsten.

2017. Poster session presented at International Convention of Psychological Science ICPS 2017, Vienna, .

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)Posterpeer-review

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