Informal caregiving and diurnal patterns of salivary cortisol: results from the Whitehall II cohort study
The objective was to investigate the relationship between various aspects of informal caregiving and diurnal patterns of salivary cortisol, with special attention to the moderating effect of sex and work status. The study population was composed of 3727 men and women from the British Whitehall II study. Salivary cortisol was measured six times during a weekday. Aspects of caregiving included the relationship of caregiver to recipient, weekly hours of caregiving, and length of caregiving. Diurnal cortisol profiles were assessed using the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and diurnal cortisol slopes. Results showed that men, but not women, providing informal care had a blunted CAR compared with non-caregivers (PInteraction = 0.03). Furthermore, we found a dose-response relationship showing that more weekly hours of informal care was associated with a more blunted CAR for men (Ptrend = 0.03). Also, the blunted CAR for men was especially pronounced in short-term caregivers and those in paid work. In women, the steepest cortisol slope was seen among those in paid work who provided informal care (PInteraction = 0.01). To conclude, we found different cortisol profiles in male and female informal caregivers. Male caregivers had a blunted CAR, which has previously been associated with chronic stress and burnout. Future research should investigate whether results are generalizable beyond UK citizens with a working history in the civil service.
Volume and page numbers
100 , 41 -47
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