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Diurnal cortisol rhythms among Latino immigrants in Oregon, USA

Erica C Squires1*, Heather H McClure12, Charles R Martinez2, J Mark Eddy23, Roberto A Jiménez4, Laura E Isiordia4 and J Josh Snodgrass15

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, 1321 Kincaid Street, Eugene, OR, 97403, USA

2 Latino Research Team, Oregon Social Learning Center, Eugene, OR, USA

3 Partners for Our Children, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

4 Farmworker Housing Development Corporation, Woodburn, OR, USA

5 Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA

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Journal of Physiological Anthropology 2012, 31:19  doi:10.1186/1880-6805-31-19

Published: 25 June 2012


One of the most commonly used stress biomarkers is cortisol, a glucocorticoid hormone released by the adrenal glands that is central to the physiological stress response. Free cortisol can be measured in saliva and has been the biomarker of choice in stress studies measuring the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Chronic psychosocial stress can lead to dysregulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function and results in an abnormal diurnal cortisol profile. Little is known about objectively measured stress and health in Latino populations in the United States, yet this is likely an important factor in understanding health disparities that exist between Latinos and whites. The present study was designed to measure cortisol profiles among Latino immigrant farmworkers in Oregon (USA), and to compare quantitative and qualitative measures of stress in this population. Our results indicate that there were no sex differences in average cortisol AUCg (area under the curve with respect to the ground) over two days (AvgAUCg; males = 1.38, females = 1.60; P = 0.415). AUCg1 (Day 1 AUCg) and AvgAUCg were significantly negatively associated with age in men (P<0.05). AUCg1 was negatively associated with weight (P<0.05), waist circumference (P<0.01) and waist-to-stature ratio (P<0.05) in women, which is opposite of the expected relationship between cortisol and waist-to-stature ratio, possibly indicating hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation. Among men, more time in the United States and immigration to the United States at older ages predicted greater AvgAUCg. Among women, higher lifestyle incongruity was significantly related to greater AvgAUCg. Although preliminary, these results suggest that chronic psychosocial stress plays an important role in health risk in this population.

Biomarker; Psychosocial stress; Cortisol; Acculturation; Latino; Immigration; Body composition