Salivary cortisol levels and mood vary by lifetime trauma exposure in a sample of healthy women



The authors examined the effects of lifetime trauma exposure on salivary cortisol and mood in a sample of women (N = 37) over 25 days before and after a stressful event. The sample excluded posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression and was divided into three groups: (a) no trauma, (b) prior trauma with no peritraumatic symptoms of acute distress, and (c) prior trauma with peritraumatic symptoms. Because results indicated no significant differences between groups one and two, they were combined for analysis. Women reporting prior trauma with symptoms had lower afternoon cortisol levels across time, with sustained negative mood relative to the comparison group. These data suggest the presence of long-term psychophysiological effects of trauma exposure in healthy women.