Heaney, Jennifer (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
The research in this thesis was concerned with relationships between cortisol, DHEA/S and psychosocial and behavioural factors in relation to age. First, symptoms of depression, anxiety and low social support were associated with higher diurnal cortisol and awakening response in younger adults compared to older adults. Second, younger adults who had a poorer diet were shown to have significantly lower cortisol in the morning period. Third, older adults with poorer levels of physical function were characterised by flatter diurnal profiles of cortisol and DHEA. Fourth, older adults experiencing more severe life events stress had a higher cortisol:DHEA ratio. In addition, under conditions of greater stress exposure, exercise may buffer against the effects of stress on the cortisol:DHEA ratio in older adults. Finally, long term exercise training did not attenuate age-associated hormonal changes in healthy older adults. However, it was shown that an acute bout of exercise can affect hormonal levels in older populations which are influenced by sex. Overall, a range of associations were demonstrated between behavioural, psychosocial and physical factors, which often appear to be mediated by age. These findings suggest that these hormones and their diurnal rhythms are central to various aspects of health and wellbeing.
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