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The Role of Awakening Cortisol and Psychological Distress in Diurnal Variations in Affect: A Day Reconstruction Study

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Author Info

  • Michael Daly

    (School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin)

  • Liam Delaney

    (UCD Geary Institute; School of Economics, University College Dublin; School of Public Health and Population Science, University College Dublin)

  • Peter P. Doran

    (UCD Clinical Research Centre)

  • Malcolm MacLachlan

    (School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin; Centre for Global Health, Trinity College Dublin)

Abstract

People often feel unhappy in the morning but better later in the day, and this pattern may be amplified in the distressed. Past work suggests that one function of cortisol is to energize people in the mornings. In a study of 174 students we tested to see if daily affect patterns, psychological distress, and awakening cortisol levels were interlinked. Affect levels were assessed using the Day Reconstruction Method (Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2004) and psychological distress was measured using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (Antony, Bieling, Cox, Enns, & Swinson, 1998). On average positive affect increased markedly in a linear pattern across the day whilst negative affect decreased linearly. For the highly distressed this pattern was stronger for positive affect. Lower than average morning cortisol, as assessed by two saliva samples at waking and two samples 30 minutes after waking, predicted a clear increasing pattern of positive affect throughout the day. When we examined the interlinkages between affect patterns, distress, and cortisol our results showed that a pronounced linear increase in positive affect from morning through to evening occurred chiefly among distressed people with below average cortisol levels upon awakening. Psychological distress, whilst not strongly associated with morning cortisol levels, does appear to interact with cortisol levels to profoundly influence affect.

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File URL: http://www.ucd.ie/geary/static/publications/workingpapers/gearywp201033.pdf
File Function: First version, 2010
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Geary Institute, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 201033.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 22 Jul 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:201033

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Related research

Keywords: Cortisol; Psychological Distress; Positive Affect; Diurnal Variation; Day Reconstruction Method;

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  1. Geary Summer Internships
    by Liam Delaney in Geary Behaviour Centre on 2011-02-20 21:27:00

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