Critical forms of life adversity and multimodal indicators of lab-based stress reactivity

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Vaibhav Sapuram (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Suzanne Vrshek-Schalhorn

Abstract: High levels of life adversity are implicated in depression and may increase risk through altered physiological reactivity. Prior work has examined the role of life adversity in hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) responses to lab-based stress, but few studies have examined specific dimensions of depression-relevant adversity (severity, interpersonal nature, timing [recent versus distal]—applicable only to episodic adversity here). In a sample of healthy, non-depressed adults, I examined how these dimensions influenced HPA and SNS reactivity. In session 1, participants completed the UCLA Life Stress Interview and in session 2, completed either a negative evaluative version of the Trier Social Stress Test (n=67) or a control condition (n=66). Extending evidence for the impact of life adversity on depression, I predicted that major severity, interpersonal, recent events (i.e., past 3 months), and chronic interpersonal stress would predict HPA and SNS dysregulation. The results provided no support for a role of major, interpersonal, recent life events or for chronic interpersonal stress. However, exploratory analyses suggested value in examining specific chronic domains; financial stress was associated with blunted cortisol reactivity in the challenge condition. Because the current study was as similarly powered as recent investigations, and the only supportive findings were exploratory, results cast doubt on the notion that objectively measured “depressogenic” stress exposure, on average, alters HPA and SNS reactivity in an unselected adult sample. Potentially, such relationships may hold only for those with prior vulnerability, or those exposed to stressors uncommon in this sample (e.g., trauma).

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Depression, HPA, Life stress, SNS, Stress
Stress (Psychology) $x Physiological aspects
Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis
Sympathetic nervous system
Depression, Mental

Email this document to