The association between cortisol and neighborhood disadvantage in a U.S. population-based sample of adolescents

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The association between neighborhood conditions and cortisol is rarely studied in children or adolescents and has been hampered by small sample size and racial/ethnic and geographic homogeneity. Our objective was to estimate the association between neighborhood disadvantage and salivary cortisol levels in a large, geographically and racially/ethnically diverse sample of adolescents from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement. Salivary cortisol was collected before and after an interview administered in the adolescent's home. We used a propensity score approach to match adolescents living in disadvantaged neighborhoods with those in non-disadvantaged neighborhoods to create two similar groups based on the time and day of cortisol collection as well as demographic characteristics. Adolescents living in disadvantaged neighborhoods had higher pre-interview cortisol levels and steeper rates of decline in cortisol levels over the course of the interview than similar adolescents in non-disadvantaged neighborhoods. This bolsters the evidence base suggesting that place may influence the stress response system.HighlightsWe estimate the association between neighborhood disadvantage and cortisol.We use a large, geographically and racially diverse sample of adolescents.We use a propensity score approach to control for confounding.We found differences in cortisol levels by neighborhood disadvantage status.

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