• HPA axis;
  • Cortisol;
  • Adult attachment style;
  • Whitehall II


The association between cortisol and adult attachment style, an important indicator of social relationships, has been relatively unexplored. Previous research has examined adult attachment and acute cortisol responses to stress in the laboratory, but less is known about cortisol levels in everyday life. The present study examined adult romantic attachment style and cortisol responses across the day. Salivary cortisol was collected at six time points during the course of the day in 1,807 healthy men and women from a subsample of the Whitehall II cohort. Significant associations were found between attachment on cortisol across the day and slope of cortisol decline. The lowest cortisol output was associated with fearful attachment, with preoccupied attachment having the highest levels and a flatter cortisol profile. The results tentatively support the proposition that attachment style may contribute to HPA dysregulation.