Ruttle Pl, Serbin LA, Martin-Storey A, Stack DM, Schwartzman AE. (2014). Longitudinal associations between infections and atopic disorders across childhood and dysregulated adrenocortical functioning in early adolescence. Developmental Psychobiology. 56(5): 897-907.
The present study sought to determine if exposure to common childhood medical problems (i.e., infections and atopic disorders [e.g., allergies, asthma]) may dysregulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Longitudinal data from 96 youth were used to examine this possibility. Medical records were drawn from government databases indicating the frequency of visits to healthcare facilities for infections and atopic disorders from infancy to early adolescence. During early adolescence, participants provided salivary cortisol samples from awakening until bedtime over 2 consecutive days. Individuals with a history of increased number visits for infections across childhood displayed elevated levels of cortisol at awakening whereas individuals with childhood histories of visits for atopic disorders displayed blunted diurnal cortisol slopes. These findings build on previous research documenting associations between infections and atopic disorders and cortisol by identifying longitudinal linkages from early health problems to later HPA axis functioning.