Trauma exposure and hypothalamic–pituitary– adrenal axis functioning in mentally healthy Dutch peacekeeping veterans, 10–25 years after deployment


  • The authors kindly thank the Dutch Veterans Institute, Doorn, the Netherlands for providing the opportunity to recruit the Veterans.


Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis alterations have been found in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is unclear whether trauma exposure during adulthood in the absence of psychopathology is also associated with HPA-axis dysregulation. Thirty-six trauma-exposed peacekeepers, 23 nonexposed peacekeepers, and 25 nonexposed civilians, all without lifetime psychopathology were studied. Basal HPA-axis functioning was assessed with salivary cortisol samples obtained over 2 days. HPA-axis reactivity was assessed with the dexamethasone/corticotropin-releasing hormone test. Lower afternoon salivary cortisol levels were found in both veteran groups versus controls after adjustment for confounders. The authors concluded that this study does not support the idea that HPA-axis functioning is durably altered by trauma exposure during adulthood in men.