3 years ago

Trait Mindfulness Predicts the Presence but not the Magnitude of Cortisol Responses to Acute Stress

Mindfulness, or the practice of observing present moment experiences with acceptance, is thought to improve health at least partially by limiting hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis over-responsiveness during episodes of acute stress. However, models of allostatic load suggest that HPA axis under-responsiveness can also be detrimental to health, and the relationship between mindfulness and cortisol under-responsiveness has yet to be examined. The present study therefore aimed to address this knowledge gap, and to revisit the relationship between mindfulness and acute cortisol response magnitude while excluding (or statistically controlling for) individuals displaying HPA axis under-responsiveness. Methods Participants (124 healthy undergraduate students) were subjected to a stressful speech task, and completed a trait mindfulness questionnaire. Salivary cortisol was collected 0, +15, +25, +40, and +55 minutes post-stressor onset. Results Greater trait mindfulness was associated with greater odds of displaying a cortisol response relative to none, but was unrelated to the magnitude of cortisol responses among those who displayed an acute response. Conclusions In the present sample, trait mindfulness was associated with cortisol responses, but this was driven by the fact that subjects low in mindfulness were more likely to be non-responders. Contrasting the effects of mindfulness on the presence (i.e., present vs. absent) and the degree (i.e., magnitude) of acute stress responses may therefore be warranted in future research.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0306453017315020

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